20 Pygmy Animal Species From Around the World

brown and gray pygmy owl sits on large branch

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Though small in size, these pygmy animals are large on personality and good looks. Check out these fascinating (and adorable) pygmy species from all over the globe.

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Pygmy Slow Loris (Nycticebus Pygmaeus)

pygmy slow loris looks through branches in the dark

David Haring / Duke Lemur Center / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Weighing just one pound, the pygmy slow loris is native to forest habitats of Vietnam, Laos, eastern Cambodia, and China. Like its larger cousins, this species is listed as vulnerable to extinction due to habitat destruction, collection for the medicine trade, and, increasingly, collection for the pet trade. However cute it may be, you don't actually want a slow loris as a pet — its bite is toxic.

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African Pygmy Chameleons

white and tan kenyan pygmy chameleon stands on tree branch

Keultjes / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 1.0

There are 22 different species of African pygmy chameleons, and they are each astonishingly small. The smallest, Beraducci’s pygmy chameleon (Rhampholeon beraducci), can grow to only 1.4 inches, while the largest, Marshall’s pygmy chameleon (Rhampholeon marshalli), grows to just 4.3 inches.

African pygmy chameleons stick to wet forests and are particularly vulnerable to changes made to their habitat. They are also threatened by the international pet trade, a danger they have avoided thus far due to trade restrictions on other chameleon species.

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Pygmy Hippopotamus (Choeropsis Liberiensis or Hexaprotodon Liberiensis)

small pygmy hippo looking down from hilltop

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Found in the swamps and forests of West Africa, the three-foot-tall pygmy hippo is one of the only two species of hippo on Earth. It has many similarities to its larger cousin, such as its herbivorous diet and nocturnality, but it spends much less time in the water.

The pygmy hippo is endangered due to hunting and poaching as well as the loss of its habitat to agriculture needs. Experts estimate there are fewer than 3,000 of these unique little guys left in the wild.

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Pygmy Marmoset (Cebuella Pygmaea)

pygmy marmoset sticking out its tongue

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Small enough to fit in a human hand and with the approximate weight of a stick of butter, the pygmy marmoset is the smallest monkey in the world; among all primates, only the mouse lemur (listed below) is smaller.

The pygmy marmoset is found in the rainforests of the Amazon Basin, where it uses sharp nails to cling to tree branches and specialized teeth to feed on tree gum. It also makes a snack of insects, fruit, and nectar.

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Pygmy Owls

tan and white pygmy owl with yellow eyes sits on tree

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Pygmy owls are small but fierce. There are 25–35 species of this small flier that can be found all over the world, but they are most common in western North America and Central America. The Northern pygmy owl, for example, ranges all the way from Canada to Honduras.

With a wingspan of only 12–16 inches, the pygmy owl usually goes after insects or smaller prey like lizards, rodents, and small birds.

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Dusky Pygmy Rattlesnake (Sistrurus Miliarius Barbouri)

black and white dusky pygmy rattlesnake sits in green grass

Mark Kostich / Getty Images

The dusky pygmy rattlesnake grows to only 14–24 inches in length and is found in the southeastern United States. It is the most common venomous snake in Florida, though there are no recorded fatalities from its bite.

If you think you haven't heard of this species before, it may be because you know it by one of its other names: Florida ground rattlesnake, ground rattler, Barbour's pigmy rattlesnake, and pygmy rattler are a few of the common ones.

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Pygmy Mongoose (Helogale Parvula)

tan pygmy mongoose standing alert on gray rock

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Also called the dwarf mongoose, the pygmy mongoose is separated from its larger cousin only by its size. It's just seven to 10 inches long. This diminutive stature not only distinguishes it from its relatives, but it also earns the tiny mammal the distinction of Africa's smallest carnivore.

Pygmy mongooses are found in a variety of habitats, including savannah and woodlands. Their favorite places to dwell feature termite mounds, rock crevices, and woody vegetation.

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Pygmy Seahorses

pygmy seahorse blends in with red soft coral

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The first known pygmy seahorse species was Hippocampus bargibanti, which was discovered on a gorgonian coral that was being examined in a laboratory. The species is only about two centimeters in length and is exceptional at blending with its host coral, so it's no surprise that it took a close examination to find one. Even so, scientists have managed to discover seven more species as of 2017.

Very little is known about pygmy seahorses, and they do not survive in aquariums even under the most expert of care. This is why it is good that they are listed under CITES and the Australian Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

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Borneo Pygmy Elephant (Elephas Maximus Borneensis)

small gray borneo pygmy elephant wanders through tall grass

Christian Edelmann / Getty Images

We're used to seeing the enormous size of African and Indian elephants, but the Borneo pygmy elephant is no less special despite its smaller stature. DNA analysis indicates that this species was isolated about 300,000 years ago from its mainland cousins, making it a subspecies of Asian elephant. Found in tropical rainforest habitats in north Borneo, it is estimated there are fewer than 1,500 left.

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Pygmy Raccoon (Procyon Pygmaeus)

pygmy raccoon emerges from branches walks into water

Kevin Schafer / Getty Images 

The pygmy raccoon, or Cozumel raccoon, is found only on Cozumel Island off the Yucatan peninsula. These creatures are similar to their larger cousins, with the same identifiable bandit mask on the eyes. The main differences are their smaller size — less than three feet long without the tail — and their much smaller population. The pygmy raccoon is on the verge of extinction, with only 192 left as of 2016.

In 2014, conservation photographer Kevin Schafer traveled to Cozumel Island to photograph these creatures in an effort to bring awareness to them and promote conservation of the species.

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Pygmy Possums

pygmy possum perched on small branches with yellow flowers

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There are five species of pygmy possum, four endemic to Australia and one found in Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. The Tasmanian pygmy possum (Cercartetus lepidus) is the smallest of these — and the smallest possum in the world — growing to only about 2–2.5 inches in body length and 2.4–3 inches in tail length.

Like their larger cousins, pygmy possums are nocturnal. They feed on the nectar and pollen of flowers and play an important role in pollination. These tiny possums are preyed on by owls, but their largest threat is the destruction of their habitat.

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Pygmy Mouse Lemur (Microcebus Myoxinus)

pygmy mouse lemur on branch at night looking out

Bikeadventure / Wikipedia

The pygmy mouse lemur is the smallest primate in the world at only 4.7–5.1 inches long, including the tail. Found only in a localized area of Kirindy Forest in western Madagascar, the species is nocturnal and known for sleeping out in the open during the day. Despite this dangerous practice, the pygmy mouse lemur is threatened by poachers who capture them for the pet trade.

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Pygmy Jerboas

pygmy jeroba Bell Pletsch

Bell Pletsch / Wikipedia

There are seven species of pygmy jerboa, all belonging to the subfamily Cardiocraniinae. At just two inches long, this creature is the world's smallest rodent. The combination of its hamster-like face and kangaroo legs led Atlantic columnist Andrew Sullivan to describe it as "a rabbit's face on tweety-pie's body." Though tiny, its long legs allow it to hop as far as nine feet in a single bound.

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Pygmy Nuthatch (Sitta pygmaea)

brown and white pygmy nuthatch on branch with green background

Cultura/Jouko van der Kruijssen / Getty Images

Nuthatches are already small birds, but at just 3.5–4.3 inches long, the pygmy nuthatch is particularly tiny. Found in western North America from British Columbia to central Mexico, the species prefers pine forests where it can scramble over trees to feed on insects and seeds.

Pygmy nuthatches love to flock together; nesting pairs will often have several "helper" birds participating in raising the chicks, and outside of nesting season, they often travel in loud, chattery flocks.

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Pygmy Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus brevicauda)

pygmy blue whale swimming underwater

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Even the largest animal alive on earth today, the blue whale, has a pygmy relative. This subspecies is found in the Indian and Pacific oceans and grows to 79 feet, which seems large but is quite small in blue whale standards.

It can be hard to tell the difference between a young blue whale and a pygmy blue whale, but the latter is described as "tadpole-shaped" compared to its larger cousin; it has a shorter tail and proportionately larger head.

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Pygmy Shrews

brown pygmy shrew with long nose sits on grassy ground

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There are three species of pygmy shrew in the world: the American pygmy shrew, Eurasian pygmy shrew, and Etruscan pygmy shrew. Of the three, the Etruscan pygmy shrew (Suncus etruscus) is the smallest, and it is also the smallest mammal in the world by mass. The tiny creature grows to only about 1.4 inches in body length. But despite that size, it will eat 1.5–2 times its own body weight in food each day, scarfing down everything from small vertebrates and invertebrates to prey as large as itself.

Meanwhile, the two-inch-long American pygmy shrew (Sorex hoyi) eats three times its body weight each day, requiring it to capture and eat a meal every 15–30 minutes just to stay alive.

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Pygmy Tarsier (Tarsius pumilus)

pygmy tarsier with big eyes hanging in dark

Carolina Pastrana / Flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

This gremlin-looking creature was thought to be extinct, but hope for the species grew in 2000 when one was found killed in a rat trap in Indonesia. Then, in 2008, the pygmy tarsier made headlines when researches from Texas A&M University spotted, captured, and attached trackers to the first living pygmy tarsiers seen in approximately 80 years.

The 4-inch-long pygmy tarsier weighs only about two ounces. They are commonly compared to the popular Furby toy of the early 2000s because of their appearance.

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Pygmy Rabbit (Brachylagus idahoensis)

full body of beige-grey pygmy rabbit near branch

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At just under one foot in length, the pygmy rabbit is the smallest rabbit species in North America. It is found in areas of dense sagebrush, which the rabbits use for both food and shelter.

One type of pygmy rabbit, the Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit, is genetically distinct and geographically isolated from others, leading it to be officially classified as a Distinct Population Segment. Because it lives in such a specific location, the Columbia Basic pygmy rabbit is threatened by habitat loss and wildfires; it was listed under the Endangered Species Act in 2003. A recovery plan, including a captive breeding program and collaborative effort with Oregon Zoo, Washington State University, Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, USFWS, and other state wildlife agencies, is in place.

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Pygmy Cormorant (Microcarbo pygmeus)

black pygmy cormorant spreads wings wide on water

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The pygmy cormorant is a seabird of southeastern Europe and southwestern Asia. It has a wingspan of only 18–22 inches.

This small bird lives among reedbeds and near open waters and is often found in rice fields and other flooded crop areas. Because the pygmy cormorant requires wetlands to survive, its populations have been dramatically impacted over recent decades as wetlands have been drained for agricultural purposes.

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Pygmy 3-Toed Sloth (Bradypus pygmaeus)

3 toed pygmy sloth hugs vine and looks relaxed

Lider Sucre / Wikimedia Commons / CC by SA 3.0

With a length of 19–21 inches, the pygmy three-toed sloth is one of the world's most endangered species — there may be as few as 48 left. It is native exclusively to Isla Escudo de Veraguas in Panama. The island is uninhabited, but visitors are known to hunt the sloths, contributing to the danger the species faces.

In 2013, a controversial issue arose of Dallas World Aquarium attempting to export eight of these sloths, supposedly for a captive breeding program in Texas. The truth of that reason is doubted by many, however, and the captured sloths were eventually released back into the wild.