Common Warthog (Phacochoerus africana)

Common-warthog-female-in-long-grass

  • Name: Common warthog
  • Latin: Phacochoerus africana
  • Classification: Mammal
  • Origin: Africa
  • Lifespan: Up to 15 years

Taxonomy

  • Kingdom: Animalia (animals)
  • Phylum: Chordata (vertebrates)
  • Class: Mammalia (mammals)
  • Order: Artiodactyla (even-toed ungulates)
  • Family: Suidae (pigs)
  • Genus: Phacochoerus (warthogs)
  • Species: Phacochoerus africana (common warthog)

Apperance

  • Length: 9-1.5m (3.0-4.9ft)
  • Weight: F: 45-75kg (99-165lbs) M: 60-150kg (130-330lbs)

The warthog is covered with sparse hair which is usually brown or black in colouration. They have a large flat head with two warts and two pairs of tusks (present in both sexes). The upper pair curve upwards and over the snout, while the lower pair are shorter and are sharpened by rubbing against the upper pair every time the mouth is opened and closed. The warthog has a black mane that runs down the spine to the middle of the back and their long tails end with a tuft of hair. The species is slightly sexually dimorphic with the males being heavier than the females.

Relatives

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  • Pygmy hog (Porcula salvania) -CRTICIALLY ENDANGERED-
  • Bush pig (Potamochoerus larvatus) -LEAST CONCERN-
  • Red river hog (Potamocherus porcus) -LEAST CONCERN-
  • Sulawesi babirusa (Babyrousa celebensis) -VULNERABLE-

Habitat & Distribution

The common warthog is usually found in open and wooded savannas, grass steppes and semi-deserts throughout Africa. They prefer open areas and avoid rainforest and severe desert. The warthog has been found living at elevations of up to 3,000ft on Mt. Kilimanjaro and along the coastal regions of Africa. The common warthog lives outside forested areas in Africa, from Mauritania to Ethiopia and south to Namibia and eastern and south Africa.

Map of distribution of the common warthog
Map of distribution of the common warthog

Diet

The common warthog is the only pig species that has adapted to grazing in savanna habitats. They are omnivorous and eat grasses, roots, berries, bark, fungi, eggs and carrion. Their diet is seasonally variable depending on the availability of food items. During the wet season, they primarily graze on short grasses and during the dry, they eat mostly bulbs, rhizomes and nutritious roots.

When feeding, the warthog will often bend their front legs backwards and move around on their wrists, on which there are calloused pads formed during early development of the foetus. They will use their snout and tusks to dig up rhizomes and bulbs, these foods provide water during periods of drought. The common warthog will also eat their own dun and that of rhinos, African buffalo, waterbuck and francolin. This animal is very hardy and are able to survive long periods without water, as much as several months in one season.

Behaviour

Common warthogs are not territorial but do keep to their home ranges. Females will live in groups with their young and other females. The males will leave the natal group at around two years of age but will stay within the home range. Sub-adult males form bachelor groups, but become solitary when adults.

These animals have two facial glands, tusks and sebaceous. Both sexes will begin to mark at six to seven months of age. The male of the species tend to mark more often than females and will mark sleeping and feeding areas and around waterholes. The tusks are used for courtship, antagonistic behaviours and to establish status.

Primarily diurnal, the warthog will often take refuge at night in their own or abandoned aardvark burrows. They cope with the high afternoon temperatures by wallowing in mud or water and cope with the low temperatures of the night by sheltering in burrows and huddling together.

As a species, the common warthog has poor eyesight but keen hearing and smell. When alarmed, they run with their tails held upright as an alarm for others. During friendly encounters, they will rub their preorbital glands against each other.

Reproduction

Mating between common warthogs is seasonally dependant. Females will become fertile four to five months after the rainy season and will give birth in the dry season. They have a polygynandrous mating system, meaning that both sexes will have multiple mates. Males do not defend territories but ritualized fighting can occur between males over oestrous females, however, injuries and fatalities are rare. Males will employ one of two mating strategies during the breeding season. There is the ‘staying tactic’, where a male will stay and defend females or resources valuable to them, or there is the ‘roaming tactic’ where the male will seek out oestrous sows and compete for them. Adult males are normally solitary but will join female groups for mating.

Prior to giving birth, females will become solitary and will give birth in a burrow. This in important for regulating the body temperature of the piglets as they cannot do this themselves for the first few days of life. The common warthog has the longest gestation of all pigs and can range from 170-175 days. Litter sizes range from one to seven piglets but on average will have a litter of three. The young will spend six to seven weeks in the burrow before venturing out with their mother and are weaned at 21 weeks of age. When threatened, the piglets will run head first into their burrow with the mother following after them. She will then turn and block the entrance with her tusks pointing forward, protecting her offspring from predators.

The males will leave their mother at two years of age but will not usually mate until they are about four and the females will stay with their mother until they are sexually mature (around 18-20 months) but will often return to the natal group throughout their lives.

Common warthog female with young piglets
Common warthog female with young piglets

Adaptations

  1. Both sexes are armed with hard tusks on their faces. The males will use these as weapons when competing for females but are more commonly used by both males and females as tools for digging up roots and tubers from the earth.
  2. The ‘warts’ for which these animals are named are actually pockets of fat located on the face. These are used for protection from rival males and predators.
  3. Warthogs have developed hard calluses on their knees as a response to their feeding behaviour. They will kneel down and walk on their knees which makes digging for roots easier and they can also stand and run from predators quickly from this position.
  4. The characteristic behaviour of common warthogs is to run with their tail pointing straight up. This is thought to help other individuals see where it is running and to follow.

Threats

The common warthog are currently not undergoing any significant decline however they are very susceptible to periods of prolonged drought and are also hunted extensively by trophy hunters. They are also persecuted by farmers for crop damage which has resulted in them becoming extirpated from some regions. The common warthog is also unfortunate enough to have an extensive list of predators, including lions, leopards, cheetahs, eagles and crocodiles among others.

Conservation

IUCN Status: Least Concern

The common warthog is present in many protected areas across its range and is part of many respected zoological collections across the globe. To prevent its population falling into a significant decline, the trade in ivory and bushmeat needs to be monitors and additional data can be collected on their distribution and population trends.

The subspecies of the common warthog, Phacochoerus africanus aeliani is threatened however, and requires additional research and some suggest captive breeding programmes to increase the population of this rare pig.

Fun Facts

  • Male: Boar, Hog
  • Female: Gilt, Sow
  • Young: Piglet
  • Group: Sounder

-These are adaptable animals and are able to change their foraging times / patterns in accordance to predator attendance.

-The common warthog will often utilise abandoned aardvark burrows rather than dig their own.

-The common warthog is gregarious and will live in groups of up to 40 individuals.

References

Arkive (2014) Common warthog (Phacochoerus africana) [Online] Available at: http://www.arkive.org/common-warthog/phacochoerus-africanus/image-G65244.html [Accessed: 16 July 2014]

BBC Nature (2014) Warthog [Online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/life/Warthog [Accessed: 16 July 2014]

Creel, E (2005) Phacochoerus africanus – common warthog [Online] Available at: http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Phacochoerus_africanus/#habitat [Accessed: 28 July 2014]

Denver Zoo (2008) Common Warthog – Phacochoerus africanus [pdf] Available at: http://www.denverzoo.org/downloads/dzoo_warthog.pdf [Accessed: 18 June 2015]

IUCN (2015) Phacochoerus africanus [Online] Available at: http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/41768/0 [Accessed: 18 June 2015]

National Geographic (2014) Warthog – Phacochoerus africanus [Online] Available at: http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/warthog/ [Accessed: 28 July 2014]

San Diego Zoo (2015) Common Warthog (Phacochoerus africana) Fact Sheet 2015 [Online] Available at: http://ielc.libguides.com/content.php?pid=664508&sid=5503080 [Accessed: 18 June 2015]

WAZA (2014) Common warthog (Phacochoerus africana) [Online] Available at: http://www.waza.org/en/zoo/visit-the-zoo/pigs-and-peccaris/phacochoerus-africanus [Accessed: 16 July 2014]

Wild Pig Specialist Group (2014) Wild Pigs of the World [Online] Available at: https://sites.google.com/site/wildpigspecialistgroup/iucnssc-wild-pig-specialist-group/wild-pigs-of-the-world [Accessed: 16 July 2014]

Wikipedia (2014) Warthog [Online] Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warthog [Accessed: 16 July 2014]

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