The common warthog, Phacochoerus africanus, is no stranger to Ingwelala, often seen grazing on the lawned area around the swimming pool.
Belonging to the Swine family, their relatives include boars, hogs and pigs. Identifying characteristics are a grey skin, sparse bristly hair and a distinct tuft or hair on the tip of the tail. Warthogs also have manes, growing from their heads, along the spine to their mid-backs. The name, warthog, references the wart-type bumps on their faces which are thick growths of skin, not actual warts. These thick patches of skin offer protection when fighting. The upper and lower incisors protrude from the mouth and form what are called tusks. The upper tusks, curving upwards, can grow up to 300 mm.
Occurring in African savanna woodlands and grasslands, the preferred habitat of warthogs is open areas because they are grazers and enjoy feeding on short grass, bulbs, berries and roots. Warthogs are often seeing kneeling on their front knees when feeding which allows them easier access to short grass and roots because of their relative short necks. When water is available, they will drink readily, but can survive sustained periods without water.
Warthogs are diurnal (active during daylight) spending their time foraging for food and taking mud wallows which assists them dealing with ectoparasites such as ticks. Adult males tend to be solitary whereas adult females are in family groups tending to their offspring. At night warthogs rest up in abandoned burrows, dug by aardvarks, but where there are human interventions, road culverts serve as useful dens.
Breeding takes place from September to December, when males will fight to determine dominance and mating rites. Sexual maturity is 18 months. Gestation period is three months where after average litters are between one to four piglets, each weighing about 600 grams.
Predators include lion, hyena, leopard, cheetah, wild dog, crocodile and juveniles may fall foul to large raptors, jackal and python. Warthogs can attain a land speed of 45 KPH, they have exceptional eyesight and reverse into their dens so their tusks can deal with any unwanted visits from predators. The tusks are used to defend themselves and their young ferociously, where the tusks can cause serious injuries.
Enjoying a mud wallow
A trio of young piglets
Facts researched from the internet, text by John Llewellyn.
Pictures courtesy of Charlie Lynam.