The Common Warthog

Common Warthog, Botswana

Warthog pair, Zambia

Warthogs are tough little animals…they have to be in the African savannah. The sun is unrelenting, food can be scarce, and the much-bigger megafauna live a brutal existence.


When I saw my first wild warthog, on a trip some years back, I was struck by its most unusual looks.


That short and stout body with a really big head. The curved tusks protruding from a flat face. Face bumps and whatever else all hidden by whiskers and bristles.


The bumps or warts, for which the animal gets its name, are tough, thickened skin that protect the warthog.


Every warthog has four tusks, to defend against their many predators including leopards, lions, crocodiles, hyenas, and humans.


Leopard, Botswana


Lion, Botswana


When you spend enough days out in the field, you see warthogs quite often. I found them curious and enjoyable to watch.


Warthog, Botswana. Photo: Athena Alexander.


They have a compact, swift way of moving, often with the tufted tail extended straight up in the air.


Warthog, Zambia. Photo: Athena Alexandra.


Sometimes they were barely visible in the tall grass.

Warthog, Botswana


While grazing, they are frequently seen kneeling; have callused knee pads for this purpose.

Kneeling Warthog, far left, Botswana


Often they were in groups, called sounders. They have an elaborate social system with family groups of females and their young. Males typically separate from the families, but stay in the home range.


During the day we saw them in the grass foraging, socializing, and raising their young. At night they bed down in abandoned aardvark burrows.


The burrow is also where they nurse their piglets. The piglets are tiny, weighing a pound or two (450-900g).


Because the warthog has neither hide nor fur for protection or insulation, they stay warm by huddling together or staying in their burrows.


When it is hot, warthogs roll around in mud holes and coat their bodies with a protective layer of mud.

Warthogs in mud, Botswana


Muddy Warthogs, Botswana


They have a large and varied diet, eating grasses in the wet season, and digging for tubers, rhizomes, and roots during the dry season. But they will eat anything from bark and fungi to insects, eggs, and carrion. Survivors.


Although warthogs can sprint up to 30 mph (48 km/h), they are slower with less endurance than most savannah animals. So the burrows are essential for survival.


Adults back into the burrow tail first, so they can come charging out, tusks first,  if threatened.


One day we were on a walking safari.  Our guide, always armed with a rifle, warned us never to stand in front of a burrow because an aggressive warthog could come charging out any time.

Botswana safari, Jet behind Guide Brett


We were passing by a burrow, quickly, as instructed, but just then there was a tremendous screeching and uproar and I thought for sure we were about to be attacked by a warthog.


It was only a ground bird we had startled.


Often over-shadowed on the savannah by more elegant mammals, warthogs may not be showy specimen, but they are crafty survivors.


They can outsmart their predators, defend their young, stay fed in any season, and live among some of the most ferocious creatures on this planet. That’s an impressive animal.


Written by Jet Eliot.

Photos by Athena Alexander.

Warthog, Botswana. Photo: Athena Alexander.


Distribution P. africanus.svg

Range Map, Common Warthog. Green=distribution; Brown=possible range or accidental records. Courtesy Wikipedia.


68 thoughts on “The Common Warthog

  1. Not the most pretty to look at but certainly providing
    exciting photos and story Jet. The name alone ‘Botswana’,
    has aroused my curiosity and interest since I was a youngster.
    Any of your stories and photos spark interest Jet,
    have a peaceful weekend

    • Glad you enjoyed the warthog post today, Eddie, and I appreciate that my stories spark an interest for you. The world is full of interesting notes, and what a privilege it is to share some. My warmest thanks, dear friend.

  2. Thanks for sharing all of the information about warthogs and Athena’s wonderful photos. Like so many others, I have never seen one and I immediately think of Pumbaa, the warthog in The Lion King movie. One of the songs that he sings, Hakuna Matata, is one of my favorites from the film. I suspect that you are familiar with it, but in case you are not, or simply want to relive some moments, here is a link to a YouTube clip of the song .

    • I have a special place in my heart for the term Hakuna Matata, and its not from the Lion King. Life is so different in Africa, hard to describe. But we were often puzzled by say, the electricity just going out or an overturned truck on the side of the road that’s been there for years. So the Africans would use that phrase with us Americans who were looking for answers to problems that were unanswerable. And it really did wipe away our worries. Thanks so much, Mike, for including the link to the song. I noticed the animation gave Pumbaa all the warthog features, including the upturned tail. Smiles to you, my friend, and a weekend of no worries.

      • Thanks, Jet. I too noticed the tail and tusks in your blog photos and how they were faithfully rendered in the movie. It is hard not to feel a little down sometimes with all of the problems in our country now, but this weekend I think I’ll stick with Hakuna Matata and Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Take care and stay safe.

    • Your words “powerful inelegance” gave me pause to think, Cathy, and I agree. I’m happy you have had the pleasure of seeing and knowing wild warthogs. Thanks for your visit today.

  3. Very interesting! I loved the last photo, with the beautiful light shining through his hair/fur. I am grateful that you appreciate all creatures – warts and all.

    • I really like that photo, too, Nan, for it highlights the bristles nicely. The light was so beautiful, it gives some pleasantness to the warthog. Thanks so much for your kid words, Dear Nan.

    • I so enjoyed your words today, Craig, thanks so much. Yes, I do appreciate the “less glamorous” creatures, all creatures, and am happy you enjoyed the warthogs too. Your promise gave me a chuckle. My warmest thanks.

  4. What a wonderful post! An impressive animal indeed, with an array of habits and features to ensure survival. I bet wallowing in mud feels great, and good looks are overrated. The final photograph shows a warthog can be borderline magnificent!
    Thanks, Jet, for another informative and entertaining read!

    • It was great fun watching those warthogs wallow in the mud, pc. I think they were having a great time at their pig party. I’m glad I could entertain you with this magnificent mammal. Thanks so much for your visit and comment. Always a joy.

  5. Very nice to get to know more about the warthog. When I saw the title I immediately thought of one of my favorite songs Hakuna Matata “When I was a young warthog…he found his aroma had a certain appeal….and it hurt that my friends never stood downwind!” I read in the comments that other people thought of that as well. Love the close-up of the two faces! Thanks for showing us this impressive animal Jet 🙂

  6. Some larger animals err when underestimate how dangerous the warthogs are, and pay the price with their life. They are very fast when running and faster when attacking. They attack by charging at high speed along the side of the rival using their sharp tusks to cut the side of the animal; in one pass being eviscerated!
    Tough cookie! Great post, my friend. 🙂

    • Great description of the warthog’s warring skills, HJ. Although I like my cookies soft and chewy, I whole-heartedly agree with you that this animal is a tough cookie, and I like them for it. My warmest thanks, dear friend.

  7. They’re certainly interesting but don’t even rise to “cute” as a descriptive word, I’m sorry to say. 🙂 I do love the photo of the leopard, BTW. As for rolling in the mud when it’s hot, I might be tempted to try that here in Arizona…but I’d have to find some mud first, so I guess I’ll stick with AC.

    Stay safe and well,


    • Oh how I chuckled at your resolve to stick with A/C in AZ, Janet. I have coated my limbs with mud before (who knows why), and it pinches when it gets dried up. So I, too, prefer the A/C. I like that photo of the leopard too. We were very lucky to come upon that leopard. Got to see him stalking. Athena’s creativity in photographing it was exceptional, as the leopard was quite far away and surrounded by tree limbs. Thanks for stopping by, Janet, and thanks for giving me a smile.

    • Your depth of photographic experiences are apparent, Frank, for Athena did have to work hard to get these warthog photos. For one thing, there was usually something else far more attractive going on with elephants, lions, giraffes, zebra and all the beauties of the savannah surrounding us. For another thing, warthogs don’t stay anywhere long, they’re always on the move; so she was always muttering about not wanting to get their behinds as they shot out of the scene. Always fun to have you stop by, thank you Frank.

  8. Excellent choice to feature the Warthog, Jet. They are such funny and interesting animals. I’m with you, I loved watching them on safari running along, tails up then kneeling to forage. Great photos of these strange looking creatures and I didn’t know the groups are called sounders- thanks. 🙂 Hope your skies are clear. They finally are in LA…for the moment.

    • Many thanks for your visit today, Jane. I’m glad you have had the joy of watching warthogs in the wild, they are fun. No clear skies here in No. Cal. yet, but there are days when we can be outside now. There is still a menacing forest fire raging in the next county, so whenever the winds change, we get bad air. We take our moments of fresh air, like you, when we can get them. Thanks so much Jane.

      • So sorry, Jet. Hope it’s contained soon. And we had an earthquake the other night. A 4.5 within 10 miles of us. Pretty scary rattling but no damage. What’s next, locusts? 😱

  9. I knew absolutely nothing about the Warthog. What a fascinating little creature they area….and actually quite cute…(if that’s the right word?). I learn so much from your blog, Jet. Thank you very much indeed and do enjoy a beautiful day. Janet X

    • Glad you enjoyed the warthog post, Belinda. I really like that last photo too of, as you put it, the highlighted mane. You know well how just a moment of the right light can color an image entirely. Thank you.

  10. The pair of warthogs from Botswana are kind of cute. (5th picture) How interesting that they choose abandoned aardvark burrows for sleeping and raising the little ones. Must be just the right size and amount of protection. Thanks for teaching us about them – I had no idea they were so intelligent and adaptable.

    • You touched on an interesting thing about the warthogs and their choice of burrow, Barbara. They have those sharp tusks and can dig well, yet they choose to use the abandoned burrows of aardvarks. No one really knows why. Always a pleasure to have you stop by, Barbara, thank you.

  11. I would definitely be wary of a warthog. Anything resembling a pig scares me to bits. It didn’t help that a neighbor down the road from us was killed by one of his domestic pigs. We used to see it down by the river and then the horrific news came that that same critter had his ‘owner’ for lunch or dinner… yikes! I bet that’s probably TMI!!! 😉

  12. Pingback: The Common Warthog — Jet Eliot |

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