Mike Unwin
United Kingdom UK
Jan 4, 2018 January 4, 2018

Mike is an award winning wildlife writer, editor of Travel Zambia magazine and author of the Bradt Guide to Southern African Wildlife.

Categories: African Wildlife, Mammals, Other

The common Warthog is a popular porker! It was catapulted into celebrity by the unforgettable Pumba in Disney’s Lion King. It’s unmistakable, with its incongruous combination of delicate hindquarters and huge head. The latter adorned with bizarre warty protrusions, bushy whiskers and an impressive set of tusks (particularly in the male).

Male warthog takes a nap Male warthog takes a nap. Image via Pixabay.

Its habits are equally odd: grazing on bended forelegs; entering its burrow backwards; trotting along with tail held erect, like a radio antenna. An omnivore, it uses its rubbery snout to grub up roots and tubers. It often wallows in mud to help regulate its temperature and rid parasites from its largely naked skin. The species familiar across sub-Saharan Africa is the common warthog. A separate species, the desert warthog (Phacochoerus aethiopicus), occurs in northern Kenya and the Horn of Africa. Although they reproduce at a high rate, the populations seem to be in a general decline.

Warthog with young at Ulusaba Game Reserve, South Africa Warthog with young at Ulusaba Game Reserve, South Africa , Credit by Susan Aitken

Five fascinating facts about warthogs:

  1. Their tusks are enlarged canine teeth that protrude upwards from its mouth. There are two pairs: the shorter, lower pair are worn to a razor-sharp edge by rubbing against the longer, upper pair whenever the mouth is opened and closed. The upper pair can grow to 25cm. Warthog use their tusks for digging, fighting with rivals and defending themselves against predators. They have long been used as an alternative to ivory in ornamental carving.

    Warthog kneeling to eat. It’s calloused wrist pads protect its forelegs. Warthog kneeling to eat. It’s calloused wrist pads protect its forelegs, photo credit by Lehmann

  2. Calloused pads on warthogs’ wrists help protect them while they graze on bended forelegs. These pads form quite early in the development of the foetus.
  3. A variety of predators target warthogs, including lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, wild dogs and crocodiles. Even large eagles and Verreaux’s eagle owls may snatch a young piglet. But adults – especially females with piglets – will defend themselves vigorously and often turn the tables on the predator, sometimes causing serious injuries with their tusks.
  4. Warthogs have been observed allowing banded mongoose and vervet monkeys to groom them in order to remove ticks from their hairless hides.
  5. Warthog sows may foster nurse piglets if they lose their own litter. This behaviour is known as allosucking and is thought to be a sign of altruism, rather than mistaken identity or milk theft. It means that they are classed as ‘cooperative breeders’.

Distribution of the common warthog Distribution of the common warthog

Want to see these precious porkers up close?

As you can see in the map above there are many areas where warthogs are present.
Search the SafariBookings platform for tours where warthog sightings are common, and go and see them up close.

Make sure to send us some of your favorite warthog pictures upon your return!