Neither graceful nor beautiful, warthogs are nonetheless
remarkable animals. They are found in most of Africa south of
the Sahara and are widely distributed in East Africa. They are
the only pigs able to live in areas without water for several
months of the year. By tolerating a higher-than-normal body
temperature, the warthog is perhaps able to conserve moisture
inside its body that might otherwise be used for cooling.
(Camels and desert gazelles have developed a similar mechanism
for survival in hot, arid environments.
Males weigh 20 to 50 pounds more than females, but both
are distinguished by disproportionately large heads and the
warts-thick protective-pads that appear on both sides of the
head. Two large pairs of warts occur below the eyes, and between
the eyes and the tusks, and a very small pair is found near the
jaw (usually just in males).
The face is fairly flat and the snout elongated. Eyes set
high on the head enables the warthog to keep a lookout for
predators even when it lowers its head to feed on short grass.
The warthog's large tusks are unusual: The two upper ones emerge
from the sides of the snout to form a semicircle; the lower
tusks at the base of the uppers are worn to a sharp cutting
Sparse bristles cover the warthog's body, although longer
bristles form a mane from the top of the head down the spine to
the middle of the back. The skin is gray or black (or yellowish
or reddish, if the warthog has been wallowing in mud). The long
tail ends with a tuft of bristles. The warthog
characteristically carries its tail upright when it runs, the
tuft waving like a tiny flag. As the young run in single file,
the tail position may serve as a signal to keep them all
together. Warthogs trot with a springy gait but they are known
to run surprisingly fast.
When water is available, warthogs drink regularly and enjoy
wallowing in muddy places. As part of their grooming they also
take sand baths, rub against trees and termite mounds and let
tick birds pick insects off their bodies.
Warthogs live in family groups of a female and her young.
Sometimes another female will join the group. Males normally
live by themselves, only joining the groups to mate. Warthogs
engage in ritual fights in which they charge straight on,
clashing heads when they meet. Fights between males can be
violent and bloody.
Warthogs sleep and rest in holes, which at times they line
with grass, perhaps to make them warmer. Although they can
excavate, warthogs normally do not dig holes but use those dug
by other animals, preferably aardvarks.
The warthog is mainly a grazer and has adapted an interesting
practice of kneeling on its calloused, hairy, padded knees to
eat short grass. Using its snout and tusks, it also digs for
bulbs, tubers and roots during the dry season.
Before giving birth to a new litter, the female chases away
the litter she has been raising and secludes herself. These
juveniles may join up with another solitary female for a short
time before they go on their own.
Female warthogs only have four teats, so litter sizes usually
are confined to four young. Each piglet has its "own" teat and
suckles exclusively from it. Even if one piglet dies, the others
do not suckle from the available teat. Although the young are
suckled for about 4 months, after 2 months they get most of
their nourishment from grazing.
Lions and leopards are the warthog's chief enemies. Warthogs
protect themselves from predators by fleeing or sliding
backwards into a hole, thus being in a position to use their
formidable tusks in an attack.