10 Wild Warthog Facts

Warthog kneeling at a waterhole
Common warthog (Phacochoerus africanus), Zimanga Private Nature Reserve, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa.

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The warthog is a wild pig that lives primarily in sub-Saharan Africa. It roams across the open plains, grazing on berries and grasses, using its strong tusks to dig up roots and remove tree bark. The common warthog and the desert warthog are the two main species. Both have similar physical traits, but desert warthogs are able to withstand drier, more arid climates and are typically found in the savannas of northern Kenya and Somalia. Two of the most distinct behaviors attributed to the warthog are its tendency to rest on its forelegs while eating or drinking and its pin-straight tail that sticks up as it runs.

According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, both species of warthogs are considered “least concern,” meaning that their populations are healthy and thriving around the continent. Here are a few facts you might not know about this fascinating creature.

1. Warthogs Eat a Plant-Based Diet

Though they have the appearance of an intimidating predator, they are considered grazing animals. They don't track or hunt other animals. When they aren't eating leafy plants or grassy shrubs, they use their strong teeth and tusks to unearth buried tubers or shred sinewy fibers from trees. Officially, they are considered omnivores because they may also eat insects and worms or scavenge from dead animal carcasses in times of drought or food scarcity.

2. They Are Related to Wild Boars

Warthogs and wild boars are often mistakenly thought to be one and the same. While both animals do belong to the Suidae, or pig family, there are several differences between them. Wild boars are often bigger and heavier, sometimes weighing up to 750 pounds when fully grown. Their fur is also generally thicker and coarser, while warthogs have very little hair on their bodies.

3. They Have Manes

Profile of warthog with mane

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While a warthog's body is mostly bald, it does have a long strip of thicker hair along its back, giving it the appearance of having a mane. The color can range from light yellowy-brown to a dark black. Much like their tails, which they raise like a flag when warthogs are on alert, their manes stand up straight when the animal senses danger.

4. Their Tusks Are Actually Large Teeth

Close up view of warthog tusks

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Warthogs have a total of 34 teeth. Four of those are very long tusks on each side of their snout. They can grow up to 10 inches long. The two smaller ones are extremely sharp and the top ones curve inwards. In addition to rooting around and digging in the ground, the tusks are the animal’s way of defending itself from predators.

5. They Sleep Underground

At night, during their least active time, warthogs prefer to hide away in the safety of underground dens. Often, these spaces have already been made by other animals and warthogs simply come in and take over the abandoned dens. Available brush or vegetation is sometimes used to pad or insulate the den, especially when raising their young. In order to be ready to protect themselves, warthogs back in, rear end first, into the den.

6. Baby Warthogs Are Called Piglets

Baby warthog with its mother

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Most warthog sows, or females, have litters of two or three piglets, but they can have up to eight at a time. The mother carries them for roughly six months. At birth, they are very tiny, weighing in at only a few pounds. For the first few days, they remain in the family's den until they are strong enough to venture out on their own. Mothers communicate with their young using noises such as grunts and growls. Until the piglets are old enough to graze and forage, they are nursed with milk for several months. Nursing mothers may also feed other juveniles in the group, in a practice called allosuckling.

7. Their Warts Serve a Purpose

Male warthog
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Their scientific name is Phacochoerus africanus, but it's the bumps or "warts" on the sides of their faces that give them their unusual name in English. Made from cartilage and located near the eyes, on the snout, and on the lower jaw, the warts are also a good way of determining if a warthog is male or female. In general, males have a total of three pairs of warts on their face and they are larger, while females only have two. These thick patches of skin are also a way to protect the warthog and cushion the animal's face from teeth and claws during an attack.

8. They Can Swim

Warthogs don't require much water for drinking, which makes them incredibly suitable for life in regions of Africa. In fact, they can go for months at a time without water if need be. However, like most other pigs, they love to wallow in mud and shallow water for respite from midday heat. Though they won't normally swim for fun or recreation, they have been found to splash in watering holes as a way to control their body temperature and cool themselves.

9. Warthogs Are Fast Runners

When danger is near, these animals are more likely to run away than stay and fight. They are quite graceful on their feet and can run up to speeds of 30 mph. Once they sense a problem, they raise their tails and manes straight up and head for the safety of their dens or dense vegetation.

Large cats, crocodiles, and wild dogs are usually their main predators. If they aren't able to outrun their enemies, their tusks are the second line of defense. Warthogs protect themselves by using their sharp teeth to bite or stab any animals attacking them.

10. Warthogs Are Diurnal

This means that these animals do most of their foraging, drinking, and socializing during daylight hours. Since they live in groups, or sounders, they travel together in packs and use their numbers for added protection. It's not uncommon to find up to 40 to 50 warthogs living and moving together. They are always on the hunt for food and watering holes. At night, they retreat underground into burrows or find densely forested areas to hide and keep safe.

View Article Sources
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