Class: Mammalia (Mammals)
Length: 3 to 4.9 feet (1 to 1.5 meters)
Weight: 110 to 330 pounds (50 to 150 kilograms)
Life span: 12 to 18 years
Gestation: just under 6 months
Number of young at birth: 1 to 8, but usually 2 or 3
Size at birth: 1 to 2 pounds (450 to 900 grams)
Age of maturity: 18 to 20 months
Conservation status: stable
When a male warthog wants to attract a
female, he does a courtship “chant”
of rhythmic grunts that sounds like an engine in need of a tune-up!
A warthog’s “warts” are not really warts, they’re just thick growths of skin. Even though the growths stick out, they don’t have any bones or cartilage.
When humans get out of bed, they often stumble along groggily, rubbing their eyes to wake up. Warthogs don’t have the luxury of waking up slowly. When they leave their burrow, they must dash out at top speed in case any predators are lying in wait for them!
Warthogs may not be the most beautiful or graceful creatures in the Animal Kingdom, but they are remarkable for their strength, intelligence, and flexibility! Unlike many of their African counterparts, they are not endangered because they are so skilled at adapting to new threats. For example, most warthogs like to forage during the light of the morning and early evening. But if they live in an area where they are hunted by people, they switch to foraging at night.
Warthogs have longer legs than most other kinds of swine, so they can run away from potential predators, reaching speeds of up to 34 miles per hour (55 kilometers per hour). Lions, cheetahs, leopards, African wild dogs, hyenas, and eagles all like to snack on a warthog when they get a chance. But it’s not easy to catch them. In addition to being good at dodging and running, warthogs are not afraid to fight. They use their sharp lower canine teeth (which look like straight tusks) as weapons, while squealing at the top of their lungs!
Why the warts?
Males, called boars, have the most obvious “warts.” At mating time the reason for these thick skin growths becomes obvious. The boars push and ram each other with their heads and their blunt upper tusks to see who is the most powerful. Fortunately, their warts act as pads to cushion the blows, so they rarely injure each other. Eventually one boar gives up, and the other boar gets to mate with the females, called sows. Then the boars go back to the solitary life until the next mating season.
Warthog sows are much more social than the boars. They stay in groups of up to 40 warthogs together with their young, called piglets. The sows communicate with all sorts of grunts, chirrups, growls, snorts, and squeals, which can be greetings, threats, and warnings, among other things. They also like to lie close together and will even groom each other.
Not very picky
Like most swine, warthogs are not picky eaters. They’ll gobble up grass, roots, berries, tree bark, and even dead animals! At the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, the warthogs are fed high-fiber pellets, Bermuda grass, and root vegetables.
As you might suspect when you look at their big snouts, warthogs are good sniffers, so it’s easy for them to smell things underground that they might want to root for. They often kneel down on their front legs and use their muscular snouts to dig up their dinner. They will even shuffle along in the kneeling position if there are plenty of tasty things in the area. When they move slowly, their tails hang down, but when they run, their tails stick up with the bushy tip hanging down. This may serve as a warning to other warthogs if danger is near.
Home sweet aardvark hole
Warthogs are not very picky about their homes, either. Instead of digging their own burrows, they find abandoned aardvark holes or natural burrows for homes to raise their young, sleep, and hide from predators. They usually back into their burrows, so they can use their sharp tusks to scare off any animal that bothers them. The burrows also protect them from temperature extremes. Underground, the temperature is always comfortable, even if aboveground it’s extremely hot at high noon, or freezing in the middle of the night.
Warthogs are just some of the many porky species you can see at the Zoo and the Safari Park. We also have forest hogs, warty pigs (not to be confused with warthogs), bearded pigs, babirusa, red river hogs, wild boars, pot-bellied pigs, and more! We even have peccaries, those good-looking relatives of the pig. We think all of our swine are divine and hope you do too. Be sure to root them out the next time you visit us!