Phacochoerus - Wart Hogs


Scientific name

Phacochoerus africanus

Phacochoerus aethiopicus

Global distribution

P. africanus – open country – Mauritania to Ethiopia and south to Namibia and eastern South Africa.

P. aethiopicus – South Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia and Somalia.


Open country

Conservation status

Several subspecies have recently become extinct.  However, both main species are widespread throughout their range.

Physical characteristics

Body size


Head and body length 900-1500 mm

Shoulder height is 635 – 850 mm

Weight is 50 -150 kg

P. africanus is generally larger than P. aethiopicus


50 to 150 kg


The body covered with bristles.  Colour of the skin and hair is dark brown to redish.

The long ridge like fold on the cheek bears white hairs.


Long thin mane of coarse hair extends from the nape to the middle of the back, where it is broken up a bare space and then continues on the rump.


Redish brown


250 – 500 mm.  Tail hangs limply when the pig walks, but is held upright, with the tufted tip handing over, when the pig runs.


Upper tusk is 255-635 mm in males and 152-255 in females.


Prominent only on the males, are skin growths and has no bony support or core.  They are located on the side of the head and in front of the eye.

Phacochoerus aethiopicus

Female – side view

Neck and face



Phacochoerus africanus

Female – side view

Face view


Red hair colouration by water hole

Carriage of the tail during running

Detail of face male

Detail of teeth.  The lower tooth is actually the weapon of choice by the wart hog, the top tooth is blunt.

Detail of the mane

Anatomical points


3rd Molar composed on set of cylinders of dentine set in cement

No upper incisors in P. aethiopicus


Glands under the eyes

Dental formulae

P. africanus: (i1/3, c1/1, pm 3/2, m 3/3) x 2 = 34

P. aethiopicus (i0/3-0, c1/1, pm 3/2, m 3/3) x 2 = 32-26



P. aethiopicus skull and detail of canines and premolar/molar teeth.

The skull is huge compared with others of the subfamily Suinae. Skull is triangular in dorsal outline, broad at the back and narrowing towards the front. The braincase is shortened, the zygomatic arch deepened.  The ascending process of the mandible elongated and the maxilla considerable deepened to accommodate enlarged, very hypsodont molar teeth.

The third molar are unlike other mammal teeth, they are composed of a number of closely set cylinders of dentine embedded in cement.

The lower tusks do not wear down the tips of the upper tusks, which are long and curved. 

P. africanus always has two upper incisor teeth and usually six functional lower incisors.

P. aethiopicus never has upper incisors and when lower incisors are present they are rudimentary and nonfunctional.

Behaviour points

Maturing age

Maturity reached at 18-20 months.

Males mate at around 4 years of age.

Mating ritual

Adult males are usually solitary and join the females for mating

Males fight by highly ritualized battles, in which they push and strike with their heads and their blunt upper tusks.  The warts on the side of their heads act as cushions and injuries are rare.

Seasonal breeding

Clearly defined breeding seasons.  Mating occurs 4-5 months after the breaking of the rains and births mainly in the dry season.

Oestrus period

Females are polyoestrus, oestrus lasting about 72 hours at intervals of 6 weeks.

Gestation period

150 – 175 days

Birth weight

400 to 900 grams

Litter size and lactation

1 to 8 piglets (usually 2-3).

Weaning age

Piglets accompany their mother regularly at 50 days and are completely weaned by 21 weeks

The young are temporarily driven away when the female is about to bear a new litter.  The weaned piglets may rejoin the sounder.

Males separate from their mother at 15 months.  Females may stay in permanent association.

Family groups


Cooling behaviour

Wart Hogs enjoy mud baths

Peak activity



Maximum running speed

55 km/hr

Visual capabilities

Its eyesight seems poor, but its sense of hearing and smell are acute.

Population densities

0.2/sq km to 20.0/sq km.  Home range varies from 64 to 374 ha.

The population is divided into ‘clans’ each consisting of several sounders (or bands) and single individuals

A sounder consists of 4 to 16 individuals with up to 40 reported.

Marking sites

Saliva may be used as a marker.

Secretions from glands around the eyes

Lying down


Note the pig sits on its front kneels, lowers its back end and then has all four feet under their body.  They then lie down on the side.


Feeds on grass, roots, berries, the bark of young trees and occasionally carrion.

When feeding Wart Hogs frequently will drop on their padded wrists and frequently shuffle along eating and looking for food.



Rinderpest can cause widespread deaths.


A captive wart hog has lived to 18 years and 9 months