A member of the swine family, the Warthog can only be found in sub-Saharan Africa. Named for the male’s face bumps, the “warts” are really just thickened skin and gristle that absorb blows and protect the eyes.
They are unfortunately hunted by humans for their ivory tusks; but their conservation status is not threatened and is of “least concern.” Warthogs have a good reproduction rate (2-5 piglets per season) and gestation is relatively short (5-6 months), two factors that help with stabilizing the species population.
The pig-like body of Phacochoerus africanus weighs approximately 150-200 pounds (68-90 kg). With an omnivorous diet they eat anything from bark and fungi to insects, eggs, and carrion. The only pig species that has adapted to savannah grazing, in the wet season they eat short perennial grasses; and survive the dry season by eating bulbs, rhizomes, and roots.
The warthog’s major defense is its ability to sprint. With ferocious African predators like lions, crocodiles, hyenas, and wild dogs, they have to be very fast. They also have burrows that they readily escape into, and their tusks are formidable fighting tools as well. While on a Serengeti walking safari, we came across some holes close to the ground; the guide warned us not to stand in front of one. The warthogs back into their burrow and are known to come out charging, tusk first.
I have never seen a tougher pig, for they walk with confidence and when they run, it is like lightning. They grunt, growl, and squeal expressing greetings and threats, zip across the savannah with their upright tails, and travel gregariously in groups known as sounders.
I have known not one person, including myself, who can ever get enough of the warthogs. They vanish in an instant, and we’re always looking for the next one.
Photo credit: Athena Alexander