The common warthog has a huge head, with a mane running down its spine to the middle of its back. It sports sparse hairs on its body and is usually brown and black. These animals also have a longish tail, punctuated by a tuft of hair at the tip. Like all pigs, warthogs are hooved, plump animals with a snout. At the end of the snout are large nostrils.
A warthog’s key identifying feature is its two pairs of tusks protruding from its mouth that are curved upwards. The lower pair is significantly shorter than the upper pair, and the tusks rubs against each other when their mouth opens and closes. These tusks are not for digging, but for fighting with other wild pigs. The lower sharper ones can cause quite some damage in a fight.
Along with their tusks, warthogs also have has mean-looking upper canines, which can grow to a length of 25 centimeters.
They weigh between 50 and 150 kg and measure up to 1.5 meters long, with females being lighter and smaller than the males (males typically weigh about 20 kg more than females). With luck, a warthog will enjoy a lifespan of around 15 years.
The name warthog is said to have come from the wart-like bumps that cover the hog’s head. While these do nothing for aesthetics, they store fat and protect hogs during fights. The bulk of these fights are between males, who try to intimidate and fight off others in exchange for mating rights. Females have no such problems, hence fewer fights and fewer warts as compared to males.
While the warthog is not endangered, these animals are often attacked by poachers for their meat and tasks.
Range & habitat
Common warthogs live in the savannahs and woodlands across Africa.
Warthogs tend to live in the abandoned homes of other animals, such as aardvarks. They are predominantly peaceful, passive animals and won’t fight for their choice of home, rather hunting down a disused space.
Their menacing look gets warthogs mistaken for animals that hunt down their prey, but this is not the case.
Warthogs are primarily herbivores and feed on herbs, roots, bulks, bark, plants, and grass. Their large snouts help them to smell and dig up roots to feed on.
Occasionally, they will chew on dead animals, bugs, and worms as they forage. In dry season they go months at a time without water. Warthogs typically wander to graze during the day, mostly mornings and evenings.
While their population is not what it once was, the warthog has managed to steer clear of human-wildlife conflict, which accounts for the bulk of wildlife deaths. When they find themselves in an area with people, they hunt at night.
Behaviour & lifestyle
Common warthogs occupy a home range in groups called sounders, without necessarily being territorial.
Males leave the group but remain within the home range, while females are adopted into their natal groups with other females and young offspring.
Subadult males live collectively in bachelor groups, but later split up to go their individual ways. They become lone rangers, only to rejoin sounders with estrous females for mating and reproduction.
Both sexes of warthog start marking at the age of six to seven months old – a behaviour used to establish status, to antagonize other hogs, and for courtship. While the male marks more than the female, they mark more or less the same things; water holes, feeding areas, and sleeping areas.
Common warthogs are seasonal breeders in a system known as ‘’overlap promiscuity”. This is because the males are in ranges overlapping with numerous females. Males can then join a sounder and service its females, or, they can wander about, competing for estrous sows to mate with.
Warthogs have a gestation period of five to six months. Sows separate themselves and go to a separate hole to farrow when they are about to give birth. A sow gives birth to 2-8 piglets and remains in her hole for a couple of weeks nursing her young. Piglets become mobile quickly and start grazing two to three weeks after birth.
Fun warthog facts
Here are some quick-fire warthog facts:
- The warthog is said to be so forgetful that when chased by a predator it can stop midway, after forgetting why it was running in the first place! If you get to interact with locals on an African safari and hear someone being likened to the warthog, it’s likely to be about their forgetfulness or poor memory.
- Warthogs love rolling around in the mud. As fun as this is, they don’t do it solely for fun, but to regulate their body temperatures.
- Warts aside, they happily allow mongoose and vervet monkeys to be their personal groomers.
- Warthogs that lose their young have been known to suckle piglets not biologically theirs.
Meet the warthog
The warthogs is indeed an endearing animal-warts and all. Non-confrontational, will nurse a foster piglet if it loses its own, and yes, it minds its grooming just as well as anyone.
Have you seen a warthog in the wild? What is your favourite memory of an African safari that involved warthogs? Let us know in the comments below!