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Scientific Name:

  • Phacochoerus aethiopicus
  • Phacochoerus africanus

Life span:

15 to 18 years in the wild.


50 to 150 kilograms (110 to 330 pounds)


Omnivore, Scavenger


90 to 150 centimeters in length (35 to 60 inches)


Warthogs in Africa


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What is a Warthog?

The Warthog is a wild animal of the pig family (Suidae) found in grassland, savannah, and woodland in sub-Saharan Africa. There are two species of warthog: The common warthog (Phacochoerus africanus), which has four subspecies. And then there’s the desert warthog (Phacochoerus aethiopicus), that has two subspecies – one of which went extinct in the 1870s. The common warthog has the widest distribution in Africa, whereas the desert warthog is only found in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia.

The name ‘warthog’ comes from their large wart-like protuberances found on its face. Technically they are not warts, but rather they are made of bone and cartilage. The male (boar) has two pairs of these ‘warts’ and the female (sow) one pair. Warthogs like to live in abandoned burrows that were dug out by other animals, such as aardvarks or porcupines. These burrows are used for a number of reasons, such as for sleeping, where they raise their young, and a safe place to escape from predators. In order to ensure their safety, and when protecting themselves from pursuing predators, they will slide into a burrow backwards, tail first, so that they can use their formidable tusks to defend themselves against unwanted guests.

  • The common warthog is a medium-sized species, with a head-and-body length ranging from 0.9 to 1.5 metres (2 feet 11 inches to 4 feet 11 inches), The head of the common warthog is large, with a mane down the spine to the middle of the back. Sparse hair covers the body. Its colour is usually black or brown. Tails are long and end with a tuft of hair. Common warthogs do not have subcutaneous fat and the coat is sparse, making them susceptible to extreme environmental temperatures. The lower pair, which is far shorter than the upper pair, becomes razor-sharp by rubbing against the upper pair every time the mouth is opened and closed. The upper canine teeth can grow to 25.5 cm (10 in) long and have a wide elliptical cross section, being about 4.5 cm (1 3⁄4 in) deep and 2.5 cm (1 in) wide. A tusk will curve 90° or more from the root, and will not lie flat on a table, as it curves somewhat backwards as it grows. The tusks are not used for digging, but are used for combat with other hogs, and in defence against predators – the lower set can inflict severe wounds.
  • The common warthog is the only pig species that has adapted to grazing and savannah habitats. Its diet is omnivorous, composed of grasses, roots, berries and other fruits, bark, fungi, insects, eggs and carrion. The diet is seasonably variable, depending on availability of different food items. During the wet seasons, warthogs graze on short perennial grasses. During the dry seasons, they subsist on bulbs, rhizomes, and nutritious roots. Warthogs are powerful diggers, using both their snouts and feet. Whilst feeding, they often bend their front feet backwards and move around on the wrists.
Image of a Warthog in the African Wild

Where do Warthogs Live?

The Warthog is found in much of Africa, below the African Sahara desert. They are abundant in East Africa and Southern Africa, with their favourite habitat being grassland, savannah and woodlands. These animals prefer open areas and avoid rainforest, thickets, cool montane grasslands, and severe desert. Warthogs are found in mainly; Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, DR Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

A group of warthogs in the African Savannah

What are the Behaviours of Warthogs?

Warthogs are social animals and live in groups called sounders. Females live in sounders with their young and with other females. Females tend to stay in their natal groups, while males leave, but stay within the home range. Sub-adult males associate in bachelor groups but live alone when they become adults. Adult males only join sounders during the breeding season. Warthogs are not territorial but instead occupy a home range. They have two facial glands: the tusk gland and the sebaceous gland. They mark sleeping and feeding areas and waterholes. Warthogs use tusk marking for courtship, for antagonistic behaviours, and to establish status.

These animals are the only pig species that has adapted to grazing in savannah habitats. They are powerful diggers and use both their snouts and feet. Whilst feeding, they often bend their front feet backward and move around on the wrists. Although they can dig their own burrows, they usually occupy abandoned burrows of other animals. When temperatures are hight Common warthogs enjoy wallowing in mud in order to cool themselves and will huddle together to get warm when the temperatures get low. Although capable of fighting, the Warthog's primary defence is to flee by means of fast sprinting. However, if a female has any piglets, she will defend them very aggressively.

Warthogs are not territorial, but instead occupy a home range. Warthogs live in groups called sounders. Females live in sounders with their young and with other females. Females tend to stay in their natal groups, while males leave, but stay within the home range. Sub-adult males associate in bachelor groups, but live alone when they become adults. Adult males only join sounders with estrous females.

Warthogs are seasonal breeders. Rutting begins in the late rainy or early dry season and birthing begins near the start of the following rainy season. The mating system is described as "overlap promiscuity"; the males have ranges overlapping several female ranges, and the daily behaviour of the female is unpredictable. Boars employ two mating strategies during the rut. With the "staying tactic", a boar will stay and defend certain females or a resource valuable to them.[18] In the "roaming tactic", boars seek out estrous sows and compete for them.[18] Boars will wait for sows to emerge outside their burrows. A dominant boar will displace any other boar that also tries to court his female.

Warthog piglets feeding
What do Warthogs eat?

Warthogs are omnivorous but also scavengers. They feed on grasses, roots, berries, and other fruits, bark, fungi, insects, eggs, and carrion.

A group of Warthogs feeding on grass in the African Sub-Sahara
10 Interesting Facts about Warthogs
  1. Their name comes from their ‘warts’ or protrusions on the sides of their face, these protrusions are a combination of bone and cartilage.  It protects their face when they fight.
  2. They sleep underground at night in burrows that they steal from other animals such as aardvark. They don’t dig their own.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Warthogs is food for Other animals in the African Wild like The lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, wild dogs and crocodiles. Even large eagles and Verreaux’s eagle owls may snatch a young piglet.
  7. Female warthogs let their babies go into their burrows first, then they back into the burrow so that if anything comes into the burrow as a threat she can run out and protect them.
  8. They like to roll in the mud to protect their skin from the sun and from parasites.
  9. Two or three female warthogs form small sounders with their young as they look after the piglets.
  10. Warthogs have tusks like an elephant, on their upper and lower jaws that they use to fight and defend themselves against predators. If the ground is hard, they use their snouts and tusks to lift the soil. They go down onto their wrists when they eat
Two warthogs resting under an African sub-saharan vegetation

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