Southern Warthog

Southern Warthog


Warthogs live in sub-Saharan Africa


Found in savanna, scrubland and scrub-forest areas.


Both male and female warthogs are distinguished by very large heads and “warts” — thick protective skin pads that appear on both sides of the head. Boars have more prominent warts than sows. The warty patches are primarily used to protect their faces during fights. Warthogs tend to be right or left-tusked, so the tusks on one side of the face often show more wear. The upper tusk length may reach 10 to 11 inches while the lower tusks rarely exceed five inches in length. The lower tusks are worn to a sharp cutting edge by rubbing against the longer, upper pair whenever the mouth is opened and closed. The tusks grow continuously throughout their lives.

Warthogs lack a fur coat but are covered by a sparse coating of bristles, with longer bristles forming a mane that runs from the top of their heads down their spines and ends in the middle of their backs. They have a long tail that ends with a tuft of longer bristles. Adults are dark brown or black in color, while the young are generally grayish-pink. Mates are generally much larger than females.

Warthogs have poor eyesight, but they have an excellent sense of hearing and smell. Their eyes are located high on the sides of their heads providing them with a wide view of the landscape as they feed.

Southern Warthog

A group of warthogs is a sounder and is usually made up of females, called sows and their offspring, called piglets. Male warthogs are called boars and are less social, often traveling alone except during mating season. Immature males are kicked out of their family group at about 15 months of age and travel in temporary sounders.

Warthogs are normally diurnal creatures but may switch to a nocturnal lifestyle in areas where they are disturbed by humans. They often use abandoned aardvark burrows as dens for sleeping and rearing their piglets. When threatened they run for the nearest den. Young warthogs enter first, and the adults follow, backing in and guarding the entrance with their large heads. They will defend their young and themselves with their sharp lower tusks, or canines.

Den sites are important to warthog survival. Besides providing protection, they are important for their thermoregulation as they have neither fur nor fat. Dens provide them with both protection from the sun and insulation from cold. Sometimes, warthogs fill their dens with grasses for added warmth. In the mornings, when exiting the burrow, the warthogs burst out of their dens at top speed to get a running start on lurking predators.

Warthogs often wallow in mud holes. This behavior serves three purposes. First, they lack sweat glands, so they are able to cool their body temperature in the mud. Second, since they lack thick fur, a nice coating of mud serves as protection from sunburn and biting insects. Third, the muddy coloration helps them to blend in with the color of the mud hole. Warthogs are excellent swimmers.

Once a warthog smells a tasty morsel, it will often kneel on the ground while it uncovers its snack. Warthog wrists are calloused, allowing them to walk on their wrists as they eat plants and dig up roots with their strong snouts and tusks. They primarily feed on bulbs, tubers, and roots during the dry season, while during the wet season, they may eat earthworms and other small invertebrates as well.

They may travel two to six miles per day while grazing and when threatened may reach speeds of 30 miles per hour in an effort to get away. If grazing and moving slowly, their tails hang down, often swatting at insects. However, when they run, their tails are held straight up with the tassel on end waving as a visual warning to other warthogs that danger is present.

Warthogs are social and may be observed body rubbing and grooming. They will mark their territories with salvia, or with secretions from the glands around their eyes. They make a variety of vocalizations including grunts, squeals, and snorts, which are used for greetings, defense, courtship, and submission.

Warthogs use a communal dung site, defecating there several times per day. It is believed that this behavior may protect the warthogs from predators, by keeping them from following dung trails and learning where the warthogs travel.


During the breeding season, males battle for the chance to mate and are observed butting heads and large upper tusks, in an attempt to attract mates. Their razor-sharp lower tusks are capable of in?icting wounds, but serious injuries are rare. The weaker male will usually give up the ?ght and leave before a serious injury occurs. The large warts on their faces serve as shock absorbers during combat.

Females that are not nursing are normally receptive for breeding during a three day periods every six weeks. Warthogs reach sexual maturity at 18 months of age. Although sexually mature at 18 months, males generally reach their full physical maturity before they are large enough to have breeding access to the females. This occurs around four years of age.

Before giving birth to a new litter, the female chase away the litter she has been raising and goes into isolation. The juvenile piglets often join up with another solitary female for a short time before they go out on their own.

Once the female is pregnant, gestation lasts about five and a half months. She gives birth to one to eight piglets. Piglets are born mostly hairless, wrinkly and grey with protruding warts from which they get their name. Females have only four teats, and each piglet has its own teat, suckling exclusively from it. Even if a piglet dies, the others do not suckle from the available tea. Since the female is able to nurse only four young at a time, often only two or three babies survive — the young nurse for about four months before switching entirely to solid foods. About 10 days after birth, the babies will begin to explore outside the burrow with their mother.

Interesting Facts:
  • Warthogs can reach speeds of 30 miles per hour. Their speed helps them outrun predators.
  • Although a warthog would rather flee than fight, if the need to fight a predator occurs, it will slash at the attacker with its tusks and bite with its sharp teeth.
  • Warthogs have one or two pairs of warts on their face beneath the eyes and near the tusks. A warthog’s tusks are enlarged canine teeth that protrude upwards from the mouth. There are two pairs: the shorter, lower pair is 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 11 inches long. Warthogs use their tusks for digging, fighting with rivals and defending themselves against predators.
  • Warthogs have a unique symbiotic relationship with ox peckers, yellow hornbills and other birds. They allow these birds to ride on their backs and eat insects off their bodies.
  • Warthogs are able to go long periods without water, as long as several months in the dry season.
  • Southern Warthog

    Although warthogs are beneficial to the land by churning up the land aerating the soil and aiding plant growth as they root for food, they are often involved in human-wildlife conflicts.

    Warthogs are often killed for raiding crops and because they can carry and transmit diseases such as swine fever, which is fatal to domestic pigs and other livestock and they are hosts for tsetse ?ies, carriers of sleeping sickness, which is deadly to humans.

    They are also threatened by habitat destruction and fragmentation as well as competition with livestock for water and food. They are also hunted for bushmeat, skins and their tusks.

    Did YOU Know?    
    A warthog named Pumbaa is a major character in Disney’s animated film The Lion King.
Southern Warthog
Class: mammals
Order: Suidae
Family: Phacochoerus
Genus: Phacochoerus
Species: africanus sundevallii
Length: Adults measure up to 35 inches in length and from hoof to shoulder about 30 inches tall.
Weight: Adults weigh 110 to 300 pounds. Males are larger than females.
Average Lifespan: Their lifespan is 15 to 18 years in the wild; up to 20 years under human care.
Wild Diet: Feed primarily on grass, roots, berries and tree bark. Occasionally will eat carrion left by predators.
Zoo Diet: Pig chow, vegetables, fruit, grass hay
Predators: Warthogs are preyed upon by lions, leopards, crocodiles, hunting dogs and hyenas. Young are also preyed upon by large eagles and jackals.
Where at the Zoo? Savanna

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