Are Pygmy Hippos Dangerous? Or Cute & Calm as They Look?

Hippopotamuses are the most aggressive creatures on the planet. Their attacks cause about 500 people to die every year.

But are pygmy hippos dangerous just as their bigger cousins? Yes, they can be vicious in particular cases.

Though they look like smaller versions of the Nile hippopotamus, they too can be aggressive.

Are Pygmy Hippos Dangerous

Nature of the pygmy hippopotamus

The pygmy hippos are solitary and nocturnal beings and like to stay hidden in the dense rainforests of Africa. Most period of their lives is spent alone. Only during the mating season they are seen in pairs. They love their babies and like to have a firm grasp on their families. However, they are scared and want to be left alone most of the time.

But all these can change if the pygmy hippo feels disturbed or threatened. It then turns out to be quite frightening. Dwarf hippos usually intimidate their enemies by opening and closing their jaws in a yawn posture. It allows them to display their canines to the opponent. It simply means they are not to be played with. So it is probably a good idea not to get too close to them during a safari.

pygmy hippo at zoo

Hundreds of them are kept in zoos all over the world. And though zookeepers prefer the smaller hippopotamus to the regular ones, the tiny creatures sometimes attack too. Despite its size, its bite force is the same as its bigger cousins. In some cases, pygmy attacks on the zookeepers result in serious injuries. There are many cases as such. Sometimes it can leave the poor victim in the intensive care unit.

Again males often fight over females using their teeth and jaws. But they like to keep company to their better halves. It is not seen in their giant cousins. So they are more friendly than the common hippopotamuses.

Potential predators of Pygmy Hippo

The pygmy hippo is found in the rainforests of West Africa. Swamps, tiny water holes, damp dens, etc., are natural habitats to the creature.

But they are not the only ones roaming the forests. There are predators with massive canines waiting to find vulnerable prey. It is Africa, after all.

Leopards occasionally stalk the pygmies. The big cats prefer the soft flesh of smaller newborns. As a result, the pygmy hippo often loses its calf in a vicious encounter.

Besides wild cats, crocodiles and Pythons easily ambush the young ones while the parent is busy foraging.

But humans are the biggest hunters of the little animal. They kill the creature for its meat and canines. The black market has a lot of interest in things like this, and many people with stash are ready to pay for them.

Anyhow, illegal deforestation also has decreased their unique abodes. The timber industry looks into ensuring further destruction. Because rich people want rare and exotic wooden furniture for their living rooms and are willing to pay a lot for it, on the other hand, the industrialists want to make money. They are motivated to do anything for it.

Protection for the Dwarf Hippopotamus

pygmy hippo swimming with baby

The little hippo doesn’t like to be bothered. However, they are native to Africa, and Africa is no place for the soft heartened. So they occasionally face threats and have to protect themselves.

They have got massive canines. And though they come in mini packs, their bite force is no joke and is similar to the Nile hippopotamuses (around 2000 pounds).

Another thing that bothers them in the wild is insects. Excessive insect bites can leave them half injured. So they take a mud bath. As a result, their skin is completely covered with mud, and no bug can try and make a meal out of it.

Besides, they sweat a bloodlike red liquid that helps their skin protection from sunburn.

Are Pygmy Hippos as Dangerous as Common Hippos?

Both common and pygmy hippos can be aggressive occasionally. Though the injury might differ by a large margin, both attacks can leave severe injury or even death.

Though the pygmies are similar to the size of the common baby hippopotamus, the babies are not dangerous.

The Common hippos kill about 500 people every year. Their smaller cousins are not as aggressive and like to live a rather secretive life.

Both the species use a yawn-like posture to warn the threat. Both have strong feet and are agile.

However, the common ones are one of the most aggressive animals of Africa. They are always grunting and growing and trying to make others uncomfortable. They fancy invading the camps, biting the crocodile’s tail, running off the elephants, threatening the lions, fighting the rhino, and so on.

But their smaller cousins are not alike and try to keep a low profile. Anyhow, they’d protect their space against invaders. So keep your distance from them, and you should be fine.


Though both the common and the dwarf hippopotamus are the same species, not everything about them is alike. The common ones are incredibly hostile. But are pygmy hippos dangerous? Yes, they can be dangerous if they’re bothered.

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Team Animalia Facts

"Team Animal Facts" is an expert group of wildlife enthusiasts who are impassioned for mysteries of animal life and dedicated to exploring them.

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