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The Warthogs (Phacochoerus africanus) 

The warthog (Phacochoerus africanus) : is a wild pig that lives primarily in sub-Saharan Africa and roams across the open plains, grazing on berries and grasses using its strong tusks to dig up roots and remove tree barks. The common warthog and the desert warthogs are able to withstand drier and more arid climates and are typically found in the savannas of countries like Uganda, Kenya and Somalia.  Warthogs live in family groups called soundings and sounding normally comprises of females and their young ones and may consist of approximately 18 members. Males usually disperse after 2 years of age and become solitary or form bachelor groups and females may stay in a sounding except when they are pregnant. Pinning-straight its tail that sticks up as it runs and the tendency of resting on its forelegs whilst drinking or eating are one of the distinct behaviors of the Warthogs. They commonly utilize other animal’s holes for sleeping at night.

 

They are diurnal

Being diurnal means that these animals do most of their foraging, socializing and drinking during day or light hours. Because they live in groups, they travel together in packs and use their numbers for added protection and it’s common to find up to 40 to 50 warthogs living and moving together. The animal is always on the hunt for food and watering holes. During the night hours, they retire underground into burrows or search and find densely forested areas to hide and keep safe.

Warthogs are related to wild boars

Warthogs and wild boars are frequently mistaken and thought the same animal. When fully grown, wild boars are usually bigger and heavier and at times weighing 750 pounds. Warthogs have very little hair on their bodies whilst wild boars their fur is normally thicker and coarser.

Warthogs snooze below ground

Warthogs are least active during the night hours, they prefer hiding away in the underground dens for security purposes. Most of the times, the spaces or dens have already been made by other animals and warthogs simply come in and take over the abandoned dens. Available brush or vegetation is sometimes used to pad or insulate the den, usually when raising their young. They back in into the dens in order to be ready to protect themselves.

They possess manes

Whilst a warthog’s body is mostly bald, it does have a long strip of thicker hair along its back, giving it a having mane appearance. The color ranges from light yellowish-brown to a dark black color. Just much like their tails, which they raise like a flag when warthogs are on alert, their manes too stand up straight when the species senses danger.

Warthogs can swim

Warthogs don’t need more or much water for quenching their thirsty or drinking, which makes them super incredibly suitable and fit for life in dry regions of Africa. In reality, they can go for months at a time without water. However, like most other pigs, they love to wallow in mud and shallow water for respite from midday horrible heat.  Nevertheless they won’t swim normally for recreation or for fun but they have been found to splash in watering holes as a way of cooling themselves and controlling their body temperature.

Their tusks are literally large teeth

Warthogs have a 34 teeth in total and four of those are very long tusks on each side of their snout and can grow up to 10 inches long. The two smaller ones are extremely sharp and the top ones loop or curve inwards. Additionally, to their rooting and digging around in the ground, the tusks are the warthog’s way of defending itself from its predators.

Their bumps play a role

Consisting of Cartilage and located near the eyes, on the snout, and on the lower jaw, the bumps are also a good way of determining if a warthog is female or male. Generally males have a total of three pairs of bumps or warts on their face and they are larger whilst females have 2 only. The thick patches of skin are also a way to protect the warthogs and cushion the animal’s face from teeth and claws during an ambush or attacks.

They are fast runners

When danger is near, warthogs are more likely to run away than stay and fight. They are quite graceful on their feet and can run up to speeds of 30 mph. And once they sense a problem, they raise their tails and manes straight up and head for the safety of their dens or even dense vegetation. The warthog’s main predators are crocodiles, large cats and wild dogs. If they are not able to run away from their enemies, their tusks are the second line of defense. They protect themselves by using their sharp teeth to stab or bite any enemy attacking them.

 

Reproduction

Warthogs have a polyandrous mating system where both males and females have numerous mates and mating occurs seasonally. Females normally become fertile at the age of 4 to 5 months and become sexually mature at the age of 18 to 20 months. However males do not usually mate not until they are at 4 years of age. The beginning of the mating season coincides with the beginning of the rainy season. The moment the female is on heat, she attracts males by sight and smell by urinating in a hunched position and then the male follows her everywhere, encompassing her and uttering out peculiar grunting noises until she is ready to mate. When the female becomes pregnant, she leaves her surroundings and makes a den in an area where there are no other warthogs since they become solitary on the prior of giving birth. They have been recorded to have the longest gestation period of all pigs that ranges from 170 to 175 days. She then gives birth usually 2-4 young ones although at times seven piglets are produced. As the warthog has only four teats, thus having a difficult time while trying to feed more than four piglets.

Baby warthogs are also called piglets

Most male warthogs or females have litters of two or three piglets, however they can have up to seven at times. The mother carries them for roughly six months and at birth, they are usually very tiny, weighing nearly a few pounds. For the first few days, they remain in the family’s den until they are strong enough to wander out on their own. Mothers communicate with their young ones using noises such as grunts and growls until the piglets are old enough to forage and graze on their own, they are nursed with milk for a good number of months. Nursing mothers may at times also feed other juveniles in the sound or group, in a practice called all suckling.

Communication

Warthogs have poor eyesight, but their senses of hearing and smell are keen. When alerted or alarmed, they run with their tails upright as an alarm for conspecifics. In times of friendly encounters, they rub their preorbital glands against each other. Female warthogs use frequent urination to demonstrate their readiness for mating to the males or boars. And during fights among conspecifics, the loser typically squeaks and flees and the winner normally leaves the losing member alone. In addition, during fights and mating warthogs grunt and grind their teeth.

Feeding

Even though warthogs have the appearance of a terrifying predator, they are regarded as grazing animals and they don’t hunt or track other animals. They are primarily grazers but also feed on berries, roots, barks of young trees and sometimes carrion. They are specialized for grazing short grasses because they are able to lower themselves close to the ground on their wrist joints that are calloused and padded.  They also use their snouts and tusks to dig or excavate bulbs and rhizomes which may also provide water during the drought periods. The warthogs may also eat their own dung and the dung of other animals like African buffalos, waterbucks and rhinoceroses. Officially, they are considered omnivores because they may also eat insects and worms or scavenge from dead animal carcasses especially in times of drought or food scarcity.

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