Pygmy hippopotamuses range in mass from 160 to 275 kg. Body lengths are 1.5to 1.75 m and tail lengths are 0.2 m. Height is 0.7 to 1.0 m at the shoulder. Despite the name "Hexaprotodon," these hippopotamuses have only two pairs of upper and one pair of lower incisors. The dental formula is 2/1, 1/1, 3/3, 3/3; 34 teeth in all. The canines are ever-growing. The skin color is dark brown on top, fading to a lighter, fleshy color on the belly and throat. Large glands in the dermis produce a glossy, brownish-red secretion that is referred to as “blood sweat”. These secretions protect the sensitive skin from sun. It may be an adaptive replacement of sweat since the production of the blood sweat has been observed to increase when intense physical exertion such as running or mating takes place.
Hexaprotodon liberiensis is most commonly compared to its larger relative Hippopotamus amphibius. While pygmy hippopotamuses are obviously smaller in body size, they also have some rather distinct physical adaptations that distinguish them from H. amphibius individuals. Proportionally, the legs and neck of H. liberiensis are longer, and the head is smaller relative to body size. The digits of pygmy hippos are more spread out and have less webbing between digits than common hippos. In general, pygmy hippos have many adaptations that are thought to be advantageous to terrestrial mobility. Their orbits are positioned on the sides of the head rather than on top. Their backs are forward sloping, a trait thought to enhance movement through thick vegetation. A feature that they share with their larger relative is the muscular valves of the ears and nose, which are capable of closing under water.
Range mass: 160 to 275 kg.
Range length: 1.50 to 1.75 m.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike
- Prothero, D., S. Foss. 2007. The Evolution of Artiodactyls. Baltimore, Maryland: The Johns Hopkins University Press.