Warthog - Phacochoerus aetheopicus

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Warthog - Phacochoerus aetheopicus | Bushpig - Potamochoerus porcus


Afrikaans Vlakvark
Zulu Ndlovudalana Tswana Kolobe

Phangwa Shona Njiri
R.W. Min 13" Max 24"
S.C.I Min 30" Max 49⅞" Measurement Method 4

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5 cm


5 cm
Often clustered
Slightly flattened

Unusual features/differences from similar animals

The skin is sparsely covered by coarse hair whereas the bushpig has a coat of long, coarse hair. The ears have rounded tips: the bushpig has ears with pointed tips and tassels of long hair. Beneath each eye, on the side of the head, is a wart. Males have another pair of warts further down the snout to protect the eyes in fights.

The two upper teeth form strong tusks which are thicker and longer than the lower teeth. The sides of the lower teeth are constantly sharpened by the upper teeth when chewing. The tusks of the bushpig are much smaller. Old Madala, a friend from Namibia, recently tried to bag a warthog with an axe and died alone in the bushveld from loss of blood after arteries in his legs were severed by the warthog's tusks.

The warthog keeps the tail upright when running whereas the bushpig runs with the tail down. 

Visible Male/Female Differences

Males are larger, have broader heads and larger tusks than females, and have two pairs of 'warts' on the sides of the head. Their scrotums are prominent. Females have two pairs of nipples.

Habitat and Distribution

Open woodland, grassland and floodplains.


The bulk of the diet is grass, seeds, roots and underground stems is eaten. Also eats fruit, bark and invertebrates, occasionally carrion. Warthogs sometimes kill rats, frogs and snakes. Piglets eat their mother's dung to inoculate their guts with bacteria. Gnaws on bones, soil and stones to obtain minerals.


An average of four piglets weighing 600g are produced after a gestation of 167-175 days. Breeding season and litter size vary with locality.  First takes solid food at 2-3 weeks and are weaned at 6 months. Baby warthogs are very sensitive to cold and wet, and they sleep on a raised shelf at the back of the burrow or on top of the mother, which keeps them out of any water that runs into the hole.

Behavior and Habits

Active during the day with a little activity at night when they shelter in large holes, usually abandoned aardvark burrows. The holes are modified by digging with the forefeet. Warthogs enter their holes backwards so that any pursuer has to face their formidable tusks. Warthogs may use the same hole for a few nights but there is no long-term use of particular holes. Holes can be shared with other species. The upper hard edge of the muscular snout is used for rooting. The warthog often goes down onto its knees when grazing or rooting.  Warthogs are one of the first species to lose condition during droughts.

Wallowing in mud is used to cool down and remove tampans which are large grey, tick-like parasites. Warthogs also rub against rocks, trees and similar surfaces. Mature boars dominate young males and sows. The contact call is a soft grunt from an adult, a whistling squeal from a piglet. Males fight by wrestling head to head, which escalates to striking sideways and upwards with the tusks. The warts under the eyes are protection against these blows. Only lions and groups of spotted hyenas regularly prey successfully on mature warthogs. Baby warthogs are very sensitive to cold and wet, and they sleep on a raised shelf at the back of the burrow or on top of the mother, which keeps them out of any water that runs into the hole.


The alarm call is a snort-grunt.

Dung and Field sign

Dung is 5cm, soft, flattened segments, stuck together in rough, often misshapen cylinders.

Rooting in both hard and soft ground: bushpig root only in soft ground. Trees scraped with tusks. Mud smears low down on trees and rocks. Mud wallows.

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