Phacochoerus africanus (Common warthog)

warthog [English]; vlakvark [Afrikaans]; Warzenschwein [German]; phacochere [French]; ngiri, mbango [Swahili]; indayikaz:me, ingulube yesiganga [isiNdebele]; ingulube [isiXhosa]; indlovudawana, intibane [isiZulu]; kolobe, kolobe-moru, mokhesi, mokgesi [Sesotho]; kolobÍ [Sepedi] [Setswana] [Lozi]; njiri [Shona]; budzayikatana [siSwati]; ngulube, nguluve, ndaekedzane [Xitsonga]; phangwa [Tshivenda]; ungili [Yei]; Dirib, gairib [Nama] [Damara]; mbinda [Herero]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Synapsida (mammal-like reptiles) > Therapsida > Theriodontia >  Cynodontia > Mammalia (mammals) > Placentalia (placental mammals) > Laurasiatheria > Ferungulata > Cetartiodactyla (even-toed ungulates and cetaceans) > Suiformes (pigs) > Family: Suidae > Subfamily: Phacochoerinae

Phacochoerus africanus (Common warthog)
Warthog family, Kruger National Park, South Africa. [photo Arno Meintjes ©]
Warthog, Addo National Park. [photo Duncan Robertson ©] Baby warthog, Addo National Park. [photo Duncan Robertson ©]

Warthogs are a common site in African savannas in protected areas where they have not been exterminated by people. Groups (sounders) consist either of sows and their piglets or bachelor groups. Warthogs are diurnal and graze mainly on short grass but will also eat sedges, herbs, leaves from shrubs and wild fruits. They also dig up and eat succulent rhizomes. They use burrows as dens.


Warthogs have a pig-like appearance. The body is grey and sparsely haired, except for a dorsal mane (yellowish –brown to black) that lies along its back. When the warthog is stressed the mane stands up. There are prominent wart-like protuberances on the face, two pairs on the male and one on the female. The canine teeth of the adults develop into curved tusks. While the upper set are more impressive, the smaller lower tusks are the main weapons. The males are larger than the sows with more pronounced tusks and warts. Warthogs walk on the third and fourth digits of each foot, while the smaller second and fifth digits are usually clear of the ground. Their thin tail with a black tuft at the end is held erect when they trot or are alarmed.


Height at shoulder 60-70 cm; weight range 60 - 105kg (males) and 45 –70 kg (females).

Dental Formula

 I C P M = 32-34

Distribution and habitat

Open savanna grassland and light woodland in sub-Saharan Africa.

General behaviour

Groups (or sounders) of warthogs usually consist of a family group of sows and their piglets or bachelor groups. Boars that are sexually active are usually solitary except when with a sow. Warthogs use aardvark and porcupine burrows as dens, but can dig their own burrows if necessary. They use there forefeet and snouts for digging and then shovel the excess sand out of the burrow with their snouts.


Warthogs spend most of the day looking for food. In addition to grazing they will root for succulent rhizomes. Characteristically they will usually kneel while rooting in this way.


The gestation period is about 170 days. Pregnant sow separate from the sounder and farrow in a hole underground, the piglets remain in the nest for 2 weeks. The litter usually consists of 2 – 3 piglets but as many as 8 may be born. The piglets then follow their mother and they are weaned at about 3 months. Young pigs will remain with their mother in a tightly knit family group for about a year until she is ready to farrow again.

Life span

12 –15 years


Although warthogs are hunted they are not regarded as threatened.

Text by Denise Hamerton

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