WARTHOG – Phocochoerus aethiopicus

SIZE: Shoulder height (m) 70 cm, (f) 60 cm; mass (m) 100 kg, (f) 70 kg.
COLOUR: Dull grey, with smooth skin sparsely covered by dark bristles. A mane of grey, brown or yellowish hair runs from back of head to base of tail, which ends in a blackish tuft.
SPEED: 30 - 50 km/hr
MOST LIKE: The Bushpig, which is about the same size, but lighter. The warthog's eyes are set higher, and its ears don't have the bushpig's long tuft of hair. The warthog runs with its tail up, the bushpig with its tail down. The warthog has characteristic facial 'warts', and is often associated with vleis and open grassland.
HABITAT: Open grassland, often near water, avoiding thick bush or forest.

Warthogs respond to the warning calls of other mammals and birds, particularly the oxpeckers which often search them for ticks, as they are short-sighted and short-legged. They usually use abandoned aardvark burrows as their shelters, after enlarging and modifying them, and line them with grass before giving birth. They will also use shallower aardvark holes as temporary shelters. When running for shelter, young warthogs will scamper into their burrow head first, but adults do a remarkable about-turn at the entrance, usually accompanied by a cloud of dust, and reverse in, so as to present their formidable tusks to an attacker. Family groups, numbering between five and ten, avoid other warthogs that may stray into their home ground, and maintain group contact with soft grunts. The female will drive off the offspring from her previous litter just before giving birth to a new litter: if she loses a number of the new litter, the group may be re-united, particularly her female offspring.


Warthogs, with their conspicuous facial 'warts' and large tusks, have had many not-too-pleasant descriptions applied to them, but they are an integral and interesting part of African wildlife. Despite their strange appearance, comical trot and shortsighted and nervous disposition, they are known for their courage and fighting spirit, and have often put wild dogs, cheetahs and even leopards to flight. They are easily recognised as they trot through the veld in small family groups with their tails held erect. Warthogs are gregarious foragers that use the upper surface of their snout as a spade, constantly digging for food in the hardest of soils. Going down on its front knees, which develop large, protective calluses, the warthog keeps its nose to the ground as it walks forward, rooting out bulbs and tubers. They are not dependant on water, but do drink if it is available. They regularly wallow in mud, both to help control their temperature and to provide protection from biting insects.


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