warthogScientific Name– Phacochoerus africanus

Conservation Status– Least Concern

Appearance

The warthog is a large variety of pig most noticeable due to their 4 large tusks. Their fur is black or brown. It is only a sparse covering with most of the body being bald. The fur is dense mainly along the spine where they have a mane. The long tail also ends with a tuft of fur. The wart in the name refers to the protective bumps which are on their head. The tusks of warthogs are actually adapted canines. They curve slightly backward and sit at a 90o or more angles to the jaw. The lower tusk grinds against the teeth sharpening them and making them very good weapons.

Warthogs measure 76cm (30in) at the shoulder. From head to tail the warthog is 1 to 1.5m long (3 to 4.9 feet) long. Warthogs weigh 50-150kg (110-330lbs).

Lifespan                                                                                  

Warthogs can live for 12-18 years.

Diet

Warthogs are omnivores. They are opportunistic feeders eating whatever food is available to them. The majority of their diet consists of grasses, fruits, berries, reptiles, birds, small mammals, roots, berries and insects. Most of the meat which they eat is carrion or animals that are already dead. Their diet changes with the seasons and the available foods.

The warthog is adapted to a desert lifestyle not needing a large amount of water. Some times they will go for months without water during the dry season.

Habitat

The warthog comes from Africa. They can be found in Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Chad, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Warthogs live in the moist and arid savannah areas as well as grasslands.

warthog

Reproduction

Breeding takes placed during the late wet season or early dry season. The male maintains a territory which overlaps that of many females. The boar may use two different mating strategies. One known as “overlap promiscuity” sees the male follow a female or stand near one of her valuable resources till she comes by and he can mate with her. The other technique is the “roaming tactic.” When using this the male will go looking for the sows who are ready to mate. While the males are looking for mates they will sometimes fight using their tusks. The waters on their head cushion them when these attacks occur.

After mating occurs it will take 6 months till the piglets are born. A littler of 2 to 3 piglets are normally born though 8 is possible. When 8 are born not all of them will survive. This is due to the way that each piglet has its own teat. None of its siblings ever suck from this teat even if the piglet dies. Females only have 4 teats meaning only 4 piglets can be raised at a time.

The boar is mature at 20 months of age. These animals will not normally mate till they are 4 though.

Behaviour

The warthog males are solitary while the females live in groups known as sounders. Sub adult males will also create groups which they remain part of till they develop their own territory.

When feeding warthogs will often bend onto their wrists. They have calloused pads on the wrists to protect their skin when they are doing this.

Warthogs lack fat and hair. This means they need to generate heat another way. As such they create a burrow. They are able to dig these themselves but most of the time they just use one which has been abandoned by an aardvark. When entering the burrow they back in so their tusks hang out. This allows them to spring out and defend themselves if an attacker appears. To cope with the warmth they will also wallow in mud. When it is cold they huddle together.

Predators of the warthog include lions, leopards, hyenas, crocodiles and humans. Cheetahs can catch some of the smaller warthogs. Raptors are also capable of catching the piglets. The most common defence for this species is to flee running away at speeds up to 48 km/h (30 miles).

Birds will sometimes be seen riding on the warthogs back removing the insects from their skin. Their have been occasional sightings of banded mongooses removing ticks as well.

To communicate warthogs use a range of grunts, chirrups, growls, snorts and squeals.

Quick facts

Pumba the warthog is a popular character from the movie the lion king.

In Afrikaans these animals are known as vlakvark which means “pig of the plains.”

Photo Credits:

Top: By BS Thurner Hof (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Bottom: By Ltshears – Trisha M Shears (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons