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All Creatures,

Episode 145: Warthog Wonders

February 25, 2020

As promised, this week we follow up Meerkats with our Warthog episode. Warthogs became even more loved after their appearance in Disney’s Lion King movies. Timon the Meerkat was best friends with Pumbaa the Warthog. Warthogs are one tough species. Living in Africa, they have evolved to survive in some of the harshest environments for any animal.

Warthog History

Warthogs belong to the Suidae family. This is a family of even toed ungulates mammals which are commonly called pigs, hogs or boars. There are only 19 species (counting domestic pigs).  There are two species of Warthog:

Within the Common Warthog, there are four subspecies. Both species of Warthog live in Africa and range from West Africa, across to Ethiopia, down to South Africa.

Pigs evolved in Eurasia nearly 20 million years ago. They are now found on almost every continent, and even on many islands. Some have even been introduced, like those wild boars found in North and South America. Initially, pigs were thought to be closely related to hippos. However, genetics has shown that they are actually more closely related to cetaceans (whales, dolphins).¬† Today’s species of Warthog evolved roughly 1.5 million years ago.

Pigs were first thought to be domesticated nearly 9000 years ago. It is debated where, but most agree it took place in both in Europe and the far east in China. Since, pigs have traveled with humans to places such as Australia, New Zealand, many pacific islands and of course the Americas.

The largest pig-type species ever recorded is called Entelodont, or the “Terminator Pig,” or even “Hell Pig.” This animal stood almost 7 feet (2.1 m) at the shoulder and weighed nearly 2000 lbs. (900 kg).

Warthog Physiology

Warthogs have an average lifespan of 11 years. Some claim they can live up to 18 years. They have tusks like an elephant, on their upper and lower jaws that they use to fight and defend themselves against predators. If the ground is hard, they use their snouts and tusks to lift the soil. The upper tusk are the larger of the two at nearly 11 inches long (30 cm). The smaller or lower tusks are about 5 inches (13 cm) long. The lower tusks also rub against the upper tusk and can become quite sharp.

While their eyesight may be quite poor, they have an excellent sense of smell and are able to sniff out food and detect predators. Their hearing is also quite keen. When startled or threatened, warthogs can be surprisingly fast, running at speeds of up to 30 MPH or 50 km per hour. Warthogs back into their burrows at night. That way they can defend themselves against any predators with their hard faces and sharp tusks. When leaving the burrow, Warthogs almost always take off at a run to escape any nearby predators.

Warthogs are omnivores but almost always eat plants. Usually older females leads the group and they forage for grasses, leafy plants, flowers and fruit. They dig up rhizomes, edible tubers and bulbs with their snouts and tusks and will eat insects when food is scarce, and even carrion. They sometimes eat dung, including their own, and will tear bark from trees.

Warthog Conservation

Both species of Warthog are considered Least Concern. However, habitat loss in Africa is leading to their decline.

The paper cited in this week’s podcast about Lions and habitat loss in Africa can be read HERE

The paper discussing the benefits of Ecotourism can be read HERE

Organization

African Wildlife Foundation 

 

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