Warthog


Phacochoerus aethiopicus


Pig-like in appearance with large heads; large warts made of cartilaginous material presumed to protect eyes and jaws in fights; largest canines of all pigs; upper “tusks” can reach 24”; wrinkled hide with thin reddish brown hair; pre-orbital lip glands

Family

Suidae

Order

Artiodactyla

Class

Mammalia

Range

Sub-Saharan Africa

Habitat

Savannas and steppes

Life Expectancy

18 years

Sexual Maturity

17-19 months

Diet

In the wild, they eat short grasses, seeds, rhizomes, roots, fruits and rarely small animals. In the Zoo, they are fed apples, pears, sweet potatoes, carrots and endive

Status

IUCN - Least Concern

Behaviors

Family groups are very vocal communicating in squeaks, chirps and grunts. A loud grunt may herald an alarm. Rhythmic grunts characterize the courtship chant, which in warthogs, sounds like the exhaust of a two-stroke engine. Warthogs typically forage in family “parties.” Contrary to popular belief, warthogs rarely, if ever, use their tusks to dig out food. They do use their dexterous snout to root underground. This action actually helps to aerate the soil, which helps promote plant growth. Courtship behavior includes the following: 1. A chanting boar nudges the sow’s flanks 2. He sniffs her genital region. 3. He indulges in lateral displays and repeatedly attempts to rest his chin on her rump. 4. This “chin resting” stimulus causes a fully receptive sow to stand for the male. 5. Mating may last for up to 10 minutes. 6. The male’s corkscrew shaped penis fits into a grooved cervix in which a plug forms after copulation. Mating occurs in the fall, and the female farrows (in pigs = “gives birth”) the following spring after a gestation period of 170-175 days. Young are born in a hole underground prepared by the mother. The piglets remain in the nest for approximately 10 days before following their mother in a closely-knit family group until she is ready to give birth again. After farrowing in isolation, young sows may rejoin her. In this way, larger matriarchal herds (sounders) are formed. The main social units are solitary boars, bachelor groups and matriarchal sounders made up of one or more adult sows with their young. Fragmentation of larger mother-daughter groups leads to kinship units or clans comprising of a number of related sounders with overlapping home ranges. Home ranges include the following characteristics: feeding areas, water holes, wallows, resting sites and sleeping dens. Home ranges vary from 0.4-1.5 square miles. These areas are marked with lip gland secretions and pre-orbital gland secretions. The mating system appears to be a roving dominance hierarchy among the males within a clan area.

Adaptions

Senses of smell and hearing are well developed.

Special Interests

African wild pigs are symptomless carriers of African swine fever (ASF), a virus disease transmitted by the tampan, a soft-bodied tick, and lethal to domestic swine. ASF may account for the absence of feral swine south of the Sahara. This has led to eradication campaigns against the Bushpig, Warthog and Giant Forest Hog where the disease has threatened pig farming. African wild pigs also support blood sucking tsetse flies, the carriers of trypanosomes that is responsible for sleeping sickness in man and ngana in domestic livestock. The Savanna tsetse fly is particularly partial to Warthogs, and the elimination of Warthogs and Bushpigs has played an important role in controlling ngana, which covers an area of Africa equivalent in size to the United States. In Swahili, warthogs are called ngiri. Birds, such as yellow hornbills, eat parasites off of warthogs. This is a symbiotic relationship – the bird has a constant food source and the warthog remains free of external parasites.

Folklore

A tale tells of why the warthog enters his den backwards. While a warthog was out seeking food, a lion chased him. The warthog ran quickly down into his den to escape and ran right into a procupine. After receiving a face full of quills, the warthog now enters his den backward to protect his face.

Conservation

Jacksonville Zoo History

Common warthogs first occurred in the Zoo’s animal collection in July 1996. This species has successfully bred here.

Exhibit

East African Exhibit Area