As the name implies, warthogs are members of the pig family, but
their resemblance to American domestic porkers is pretty
limited. Widely distributed in the savannahs of Africa,
these are social animals, within limits. The females,
called sows, live in very small groups with their offspring
(piglets), while the males (boars) tend to wander alone except
They are probably best known for how they look, which can be
pretty fierce. The basic warthog body is black, gray or
brown, with a dark and spiky mane that runs from the head and
down the back, plus a tuft of tail bristles. Weights can
range from 100 to 300+ pounds, with males 20-50 pounds heavier
Despite poor eyesight, warthogs have a good sense of smell,
which they use for locating food, detecting predators and
recognizing other animals. They may be three to five feet long
and approximately two to three feet tall at the shoulder.
Their bodies are covered with sparse coarse bristly hair, and
their most prominent feature is their elongated faces with
protruding warts and tusks.
Warts vs. Tusks
The warts are actually thick protective pads that appear on both
sides of the head. Those dangerous looking warthog tusks are
unusual; the two upper ones emerge from the sides of the snout
to form a semicircle, while the lower tusks at the base of the
uppers are worn to a sharp cutting edge. The tusks are
used for digging, for combat with other hogs, and in defense
against predators—the lower set can inflict severe wounds. That
said, although warthogs appear fierce, they would rather run
than fight, and they can take off at up to 30 miles per hour
when motivated! That’s roughly equivalent to the speed of
white-tailed deer and grizzly bears.
When on the run, that tufted tail is held straight in the air,
acting as a “flag” that the much smaller piglets can follow.
A mother warthog will fiercely defend her young. As the
piglets drop into a burrowing hole, the sow will back in behind
them with her tusks at the ready. The main warthog
predators are humans, lions, leopards, crocodiles, and hyenas.
Cheetahs also prey on small warthogs when they can catch them.
Seasonal breeders, a warthog sow will bear up to four young, but
no more, since she only has four teats – one for each piglet.
The babies suckle from mom for up to four months, then begin
consuming an adult warthog diet of grasses, roots, berries,
bark, and occasionally carrion. At about two years of age,
the piglets are “encouraged” to leave mom and go out on their
own, after which the sow can bear another litter. They
live in burrowed out holes they make themselves as well as
taking up residence in abandoned aardvark burrows.
Although not currently endangered, outside of protected areas,
the warthog’s range is declining. They are killed for raiding
wheat, rice, bean or groundnut fields. People in some
agricultural areas also eliminate warthogs since they are known
to carry African swine fever.
● Warthogs have been
observed allowing banded mongooses to groom them to remove
● You can identify the
sex of a warthog simply by seeing its face. Boars have two pairs
of “warts,” while sows have a single pair.
African Wildlife Foundation
The African Guide http://www.africaguide.com/wildlife/warthog.htm
Zoological Wildlife Foundation
Photo by Jackie Curts