ORDER: Artiodactyla

FAMILY: Suidae

GENUS: Phacochoerus

SPECIES: aethiopicus

These unusual pigs have a barrel-shaped body, a big, wide head ornamented with six facial warts, and huge curved canine tusks. Height is 25-33 in, length is 57-74 in, and weight is 110-330 lb. The skin warts are behind and below the eye, between the corner of the mouth and the eye, and at the side of the lower jaw. In males they grow into cone-shaped protuberances while they are much smaller in females. Grayish-brown in color, a distinct reddish mane is present on the neck and the back and often there is a white beard on the cheeks. The tail has a tassel; otherwise, they are sparsely haired.

Savanna, light bush and grass steppes of Africa from below the Sahara to South Africa.

Omnivorous. Diet mainly consists of different kinds of grass, but may sometimes eat berries and the bark of young trees. During drought they eat bulbs, roots, and carrion.

Except during the rutting season, they live in small groups of usually one or two related females and their young. During the day adult boars may join these groups, but generally boars stay by themselves. They are active only during the day; as soon as the sun sets, they retreat into their dens (often abandoned aardvark dens) and do not leave until dawn. The den is not only a hiding and resting place but also a nursery. Gestation takes six months. Before birth the female leaves her young from the previous year and goes into an area where no other warthogs live. She gives birth to an average of three young. Young are sensitive to cold and heat and remain in the den for the first few days, with their mother returning to nurse around noon and then again at sunset. After a week they leave on short excursions and with increasing age, return only at night to the den. Piglets start grazing at 2-3 weeks and are weaned by 6 months. Sexual maturity is reached by 17-19 months. Life span in the wild is 10 to 12 years; in captivity a life span of 18 years has been recorded.

The warthog moves on the wrists while searching for food; wide calluses have developed on the wrists as an adaptation to this type of locomotion. Although they must lower their heads while grazing they are able to see over a much larger area since their eyes are higher and further back in the head than in any other species of pig. Most of their teeth are formulated for grinding because of their grass diet. However, the upper canines grow especially long (growing first to the side, then upward and inward). They continue to grow throughout life- up to 41 cm long. The straight and much shorter lower canines grind against the lower edge of the uppers to form sharp edged stilettos which can seriously injure predators. When fighting other warthogs they rarely use their canines but rather push with their broad noses and foreheads, and so do not necessarily harm each other. The large warts help protect the eyes and jaw during fights. During periods of drought their strong spade-like snout (along with their large head used as a lever) can dig through hard soil to nutritious roots and rhizomes.

Group members greet after a separation with explosive grunts and nose-to-nose contact. They also social groom, which may include stripping the long mane hair through the lips or incisors. To solicit grooming, one warthog lies prone before another. Since they have no insulation from hair or subcutaneous fat they are vulnerable to cold and damp, especially the young; thus they need deep burrows which have sometimes been seen to be lined with grass. Resting in the shade and mud baths are used when temperatures are high and piglets stay in their mother's shadow. A group of pigs is called a sounder. These social units may consist of a couple of related females and their young or a group of young non-breeding males.

The warthogs can be found between the Wayne and Gladys Valley Children's Zoo and the African Veldt.

Not endangered. Principal predators are lion, leopard, and cheetah. Hyenas sometimes attack them, but they have also been seen resting together. They are hunted for their meat by man and suffer from a variety of diseases, the most serious being rinderpest, which has killed large numbers in the past. They have been exterminated in some farming areas since they are a reservoir for African swine fever. Listed as a species of Least Concern by IUCN.


  1. Estes, Richard. The Behavior Guide to African Mammals. 1991. University of California Press, pp. 219-221.
  2. Grizimek, Dr. Dr. h.c. Bernard, 1972. Grizimek
  3. Kingdon, Johnathan. 1984. East African Mammals. University of Chicago Press, pp. 231-249.
  4. Nowak, Ronald. 1991. Walker