Delicate in size compared to her “common” hippo cousins, Tiny the pygmy hippo did not always garner the attention she deserved at the Zoo.
  • 1940s

In the 1940s, the Zoo was making a splash with its hippos: Rube and Rubie, a pair of huge river hippos, had two youngsters, and Puddles the crowd pleaser was revered until she moved to the San Francisco Zoo. However, across the street from the big guys lived a much smaller—by comparison—hippo, aptly named Tiny. Not much was known about this petite relative except that she was less inclined to water, nocturnal, and largely solitary. The pygmy hippo comes from the remote, tangled forests of Liberia, with small numbers in nearby Sierra Leone, Guinea, and the Ivory Coast. This shy animal eluded Western science until 1840, so it was a new kid on the zoo block. But despite her rarity and elusiveness, our little girl Tiny was often overlooked by visitors—or misnamed, since they thought her to be “an ugly pig.”

A ZOONOOZ article bragged that the pygmy hippo earned three whole pages in the book Extinct and Vanishing Mammals of the Old World. With that in mind, visitors were encouraged to visit big mammal mesa and to “eye Tiny more sympathetically,” considering her big reputation. Little Tiny didn’t seem to care much either way, but astute visitors could appreciate a creature they most certainly would never see in the wild.

Images of San Diego Zoo Centennial commemorative pins. ShopZoo: Your one-stop shop for Centennial commemoratives, gear, and more!