Natural Histories

photograph of a Sunda Pangolin


Phacochoerus africanus


Warthogs have a mane of long coarse hair down the back while the rest of the black or brown, pig-like body is sparsely covered in hair. The end of the tail has a tuft of hair. Warthogs have a large head with three pairs of distinct facial warts, which are made of cartilaginous connective tissue. There are three types of warts; the suborbital warts grow as long as 15 cm on male warthogs, preorbital warts do not develop much in females, and submaxillary warts which have white bristles. Male common warthogs have large upper tusks that can be 255-635 mm long while the tusks of females are only about 152-255 mm long. Warthogs weigh between 50 and 150 kg and have a shoulder height of 635-850mm. Females tend to be about 20% smaller than males.


This species can be found in Africa from Mauritania to Ethiopia and Namibia and eastern South Africa. Warthogs prefer open and wooded savannas, grass-steppes, and semi-deserts. This species avoids rainforests and severe deserts. Habitats must include areas with shade wallows to cool-off during the high temperatures of the day. Warthogs stay in burrows during the evening to keep warm.

Feeding Behavior and Diet

Warthogs consume roots, berries, tree bark of young trees and they will also occasionally consume carrion (remains of dead animals). Warthogs graze on short grasses by lowering themselves to the ground on calloused and padded wrist joints. Their snouts and tusks are excellent for excavating rhizomes and bulbs from the ground. Rhizomes and bulbs may become an important source of water for this species during the dry season. This species is also known to consume the dung of rhinoceroses, African buffalos, waterbucks, francolins, and even their own.


Male warthogs are solitary except during breeding when they join groups of females. Females are capable of breeding 4-5 months after the rainy season. Warthogs are polygynandrous, where both males and females have multiple mates. Although males are not territorial, they will compete for a female by using their tusks to fight other males. After a gestation of 170-175 days, the female produces about 3 piglets while in a burrow. This burrow helps to regulate the body temperature of the piglets for the first few days of life; piglets will stay in the burrow for 6-7 weeks. Piglets are weaned after 21 weeks and remain with their mother for the first two years of life. This species reaches sexual maturity at 18-20 months old, but males do not typically mate until their fourth year.

Months and Times of Activity

This species is diurnal, which means they are most active during the day and retreat to their burrows at night, a tactic for avoiding nocturnal predators such as lions. During the hot temperatures of the mid-day, warthogs can be found cooling off in wallows and during the cool evening warthogs retreat to burrows to stay warm. This species will commonly change their activities based on human disturbances, warthogs are often nocturnal in areas with more humans.

Special Features, Stories, Relationships

•    Warthogs have the longest gestation period of all pigs (170-175 days).
•    Female warthogs live in groups called “soundings.”
•    Warthogs tend to avoid attacks by fleeing with their tail high in the air.
•    This species has a mutualistic relationship with red-billed and yellow-billed ox-peckers; these birds consume parasites from the bodies of the warthogs.
•    To read legends featuring this animal go to;
•    Children’s book featuring this animal: MOGO The Third Warthog by Donna Jo Napoli


 Creel, E. 2005. "Phacochoerus africanus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed November 04, 2014 at