Common warthogs are medium-sized wild members of the pig family. Warthogs are identifiable by the two pairs of tusks protruding from the mouth and curving upwards. The tusks are not used for digging but are used for combat with other hogs, and in defense against predators. Common warthogs have a large head, with a mane down the spine to the middle of the back. Their body is covered with sparse hair and is usually black or brown in color. Tails are long and end with a tuft of hair. Females in this species are typically a bit smaller and lighter in weight than males.
Read The full article, of Pritish Kumar Halder, in which he discusses the warthogs that are medium-sized wild pig families.
Common warthogs are found in sub-Saharan Africa. They live in grasslands, savanna, open bushlands, and woodlands. These animals prefer open areas and avoid rainforest, thickets, cool montane grasslands, and severe desert.
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), and shoulder height from 63.5 to 85 cm (2 ft 1 in to 2 ft 9+1⁄2 in). Females, at 45 to 75 kilograms (99 to 165 pounds), are typically slightly smaller and lighter in weight than males, at 60 to 150 kg (130 to 330 lb). A warthog is identifiable by the two pairs of tusks protruding from the mouth and curving upwards.
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 defense against predators – the lower set can inflict severe wounds.
Common warthog ivory is taken from the constantly growing canine teeth. The tusks, particularly the upper set, work in much the same way as elephant tusks with all designs scaled down. Tusks are carved predominantly for the tourist trade in east and southern Africa.
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 color 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
Habits and Lifestyle
Common 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. Subadult males associate in bachelor groups but live alone when they become adults. Adult males only join sounders during the breeding season. Common 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. Common warthogs use tusk marking for courtship, for antagonistic behaviors, and to establish status. These animals are the only pig species that has adapted to grazing in savanna 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 Common warthog’s primary defense is to flee by means of fast sprinting. However, if a female has any piglets, she will defend them very aggressively.
Diet and Nutrition
Common warthogs are omnivorous but also scavengers. They feed on grasses, roots, berries, and other fruits, bark, fungi, insects, eggs, and carrion.
Common warthogs are polygynandrous (promiscuous), which means that both males and females have multiple mates. They are seasonal breeders and rutting begins in the late rainy or early dry season. Males have two mating strategies during the rut. First is the “staying tactic”, when a male stays and defends certain females. In the “roaming tactic”, males seek out ready to mate females and compete for them. A dominant male will displace any other male that also tries to court his female.
When a female leaves her den, the male will try to demonstrate his dominance and then follow her. When females are about to give birth, they temporarily leave their families to farrow in a separate hole. The gestation period is 5-6 months and the litter is 2-8 piglets, with 2-4 typical. The female will stay in the hole for several weeks, nursing her piglets. Common warthog females may also nurse foster piglets if they lose their own litter.
This behavior is called allosucking and makes them cooperative breeders. Piglets begin grazing at about 2-3 weeks and are weaned by 6 months. Young quickly attain mobility and stay close to their mothers for defense. They become reproductively mature at 18-20 months of age.
Major threats to Common warthogs include droughts, disease, and hunting. In eastern Africa, these animals suffer from habitat degradation, loss and fragmentation, and competition with livestock for water and food. Common warthogs are hunted for bushmeat, entertainment, skins, and tusks, as bait for hunting large carnivores, for crop raiding, or to reduce grazing pressure.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of the Common warthogs is unknown. However, there is an estimated population of the species in South Africa which includes around 22,250 individuals. Currently, Common warthogs are classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List but their numbers today are decreasing.
The common warthog is the only pig species that has adapted to grazing and savanna 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. When feeding, they often bend their front feet backwards and move around on the wrists. Calloused pads that protect the wrists during such movement form quite early in the development of the fetus.
Although they can dig their own burrows, they commonly occupy abandoned burrows of aardvarks and other animals. The common warthog commonly reverses into burrows, with its head facing the opening and ready to burst out if necessary. Common warthogs will wallow in mud to cope with high temperatures and huddle together to cope with low temperatures.
Although capable of fighting (males aggressively fight each other during mating season), the common warthog’s primary defense is to flee by means of fast sprinting. When threatened, Warthogs can run speeds of up to 48 km/h (30 mph), will run with their tails sticking up and will enter their dens rear first with tusks facing out.
The common warthog’s main predators are humans, lions, leopards, cheetahs, crocodiles, wild dogs and hyenas. Birds of prey such as Verreaux’s eagle owls and martial eagles sometimes prey on piglets. However, if a female common warthog has any piglets, she will defend them very aggressively. On occasion, common warthogs have been observed charging and even wounding large predators. Common warthogs have also been observed allowing banded mongooses and vervet monkeys to groom them to remove ticks.