Pigmy, Or Pigmy (Gr. , from , the fist, or a measure extending from the elbow to the fist, equal to about 13 1/2 inches), the name of a nation of dwarfs believed by the ancients to inhabit the interior of Africa. They were supposed to be about three spans high, and according to the favorite story they were engaged in constant war with the cranes, their inveterate enemies. Herodotus speaks seriously of them (ii. 32) as an existing race; and many recent commentators have believed that the accounts from which he took his information had confounded a small species of African apes with men. The story of a pygmy race was universally regarded as entirely fabulous until a very recent period. Dr. Krapf, a German missionary, was (about 1850) the first to revive the old myth, in accounts of a tribe of dwarfish negroes of which he had heard in the unexplored part of S. E. Africa. Du Chaillu's explorations enabled him to give still more definite statements, which were long doubted, but the mystery surrounding the subject was finally cleared away by the discoveries of Dr. Georg Schweinfurth. In the country of the Monbuttoos, between lat. 3° and 4° N. and Ion. 28° and 29° E., during a long time passed at the king's residence (1870) he was brought into actual communication with a considerable number of people from a pygmy race, inhabiting a district nearly corresponding to that indicated by the ancient story.
The first of the pygmies whom he examined was brought by the Monbuttoos to his tent. Dr. Schweinfurth says: "With his own lips I heard him assert that the name of his nation was Akka; and I further learnt that they inhabit large districts to the south of the Monbuttoo, between lat. 2° and 1° N A portion of them are subject to the Monbuttoo king, who, desirous of enhancing the splendor of his court by the addition of any available natural curiosities, had compelled several families of the Akka to settle in the vicinity." Schweinfurth soon after saw many other representatives of this strange colony, and even succeeded in carrying away one of them; but he died before the explorer reached the coast. No one of six specimens that he measured, some of whom were of advanced age, much exceeded 4 ft. 10 in. in height. Their heads were disproportionately large, their shoulders peculiar in shape, with crooked and singularly formed blades; the chest was flat and contracted above, but expanded below to support the belly, which Schweinfurth says is "huge and hanging." All the lower joints are angular and projecting except the knees, which are plump and round. The feet turn inward, and the Akka "waddle and lurch" in walking. The hands alone are remarkably well formed.
The skulls of all examined were prognathous to an extraordinary degree, the facial angles of two of them being respectively 60° and 66°. They have a snout-like projection of the jaws, with an unprotruding chin; the upper part of the skull is wide and almost spherical. At the base of the nose there is an unusually deep indentation. Of their country he could only learn that it was scantily watered and probably flat; that it was politically divided among a considerable number of tribes; and that there were nine kings. (See Dwarf).