There is no denying that warthogs are not the most aesthetically pleasing of Africa’s wildlife. Large, flat heads covered in ‘warts’, four sharp tusks, sparse hair – they are not likely to win any beauty contests. However, there is a toughness and tenacity to these little animals that we cannot help but admire.
They do have some odd habits – entering burrows backwards, trotting with erect tails, and bending their forelegs to graze – but their undeniable charisma will leave a memorable mark on your safari.
Here are 10 facts about warthogs.
1. They’re vegetarians.
Warthogs may appear to be ferocious little animals, and contrary to Pumba the warthog eating worms in the Lion King, they are not carnivores. Warthogs are grazers, eating grasses, plants, berries and bark. They also use their snouts to dig up roots and bulbs.
2. They’re wallowers.
Warthogs enjoy wallowing! If there is water available, they will often submerge themselves in it to cool down. They also like to wallow in mud – it cools them down and offers respite from pesky, biting insects.
3. Their tusks are teeth.
The large tusks of a warthog are actually enlarged canine teeth. They have to pairs – the shorter, lower pair and the longer, upper pair. The upper pair of tusks can grow up to 25cm in length! Warthogs use their tusks for digging, fighting rival warthogs and defending themselves from predators.
4. They live in dens.
Warthogs are known for using empty dens left by aardvarks. They use these dens to have their young. They also use them as hiding spots from predators. Warthogs go for flight over fight and will often back into their den, using their tusks to guard the entrance.
5. They’re tough.
Warthogs are extremely adaptable and can survive long periods of time without water. In fact, they can for several months without water in the dry season.
6. They don’t have warts!
They are named for the ‘wart’ on the sides of their face. However, these are not warts at all, but rather protrusions made up of bone and cartilage. These protrusions act as padding and protection for when males fight during mating season.
7. They’re speedy!
Warthogs can reach speeds of up to 48km/h (30mph) when running. This speed helps them outrun predators and reach their dens for safety.
8. They ‘wear’ knee pads.
Warthogs often kneel to graze on lower grasses. As a result, they have padding on their knees to protect them while kneeling.
9. They can be foster parents.
Warthog sows have been known to foster nurse piglets if they have lost their own litter. This is known as allosucking and is considered as altruism rather than mistaken identity or milk theft. This means warthogs are classified as ‘cooperative breeders’.
10. They enjoy being groomed!
It has been observed that warthogs allow banded mongoose and vervet monkeys to groom them and remove ticks from their hides. Birds also help warthogs fight the battle against pesky insects – oxpeckers and other species sometimes ride on warthogs, eating the insects off their hides.