Potamochoerus larvatus (Bushpig)

bosvark [Afrikaans]; Buschschwein [German]; potamochčre [French]; nguruwe [Swahili]; ingulungundu, ifarigi yommango, isavakukazana sommango [isiNdebele]; ingulube [isiXhosa]; ingulube, ingulube yasaWathini [isiZulu]; kolobę, kolobę-sodi, kolobę-ya-thaba [Sepedi]; kolobe, sodi, kolobe ya thaba, mom, holobe-mom, kolobe-mom [Sesotho]; kolobę, kolobę yanaga, kolobę wanaga, kotola, nkotola, kolobę-nkotola, kolobęsôdi, kolobętôpô [Setswana]; humba, nguruve [Shona]; ingulube, ingulube ye siganga, ihhontji [siSwati]; khumba, nguluve m 'hlati [Xitsonga]; nguluvhe, nguluvhe ya daka [Tshivenda]; !Garohagub [Nama] [Damara]

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: Suinae

Potamochoerus larvatus (Bushpig)  

Bushpig, Malawi. [photo Arjen van de Merwe ©]


A hairy African pig that inhabits dense vegetation and is active mainly at night. Although widespread, it is rarely seen in the wild and seldom photographed. They eat mainly bulbs, tubers and rhizomes and will also eat insect pupae, earthworms and other animal matter when it is available. They occur in groups (sounders) of 4-10 animals made up of a dominant boar and sow together with subadult sows and young. Breeding pairs are monogamous forming strong pair bonds. Bachelor groups and solitary animals also occur.


Bushpigs have a pig-like appearance and are one of the most generalized of the living even-toed, hoofed mammals (artiodactyls). The body is well-covered in long bristle like hair that is usually reddish-brown to grey brown in colour. A mane of long pale hair extends along the spine from the back of the neck to the shoulders. The head is long with a hard flattened snout and the facial hair is usually white. The large ears are pointed with tufts of hair on the ends. The tail is thin with a dark tassle at the end, it is held down when running unlike the warthog that holds its tail erect. While older boars may have a pair of warts on the muzzle these are not as prominent as the wart-like protuberances on the face of the warthog. The large canine teeth of the adults project as tusks but are not as long or curved as those of the warthog. The lower tusks are sharpened on the tip and along the edge by occlusion with the upper canines and are formidable weapons when used. The teeth are adapted to the omnivorous diet and the molars have characteristically rounded cusps. The males are slightly larger than the sows.


Height at shoulder 55-88 cm; weight range 60 –115 kg.

Dental Formula

I C PM M = 40-44

Distribution and habitat

Occurs in Africa south of the Sahara but not in the open semi-arid and arid regions of southern Africa. In the latter region it is found in the northern and eastern areas, with the distribution extending as far south as Mossel Bay. Inhabits forest, dense bush, often in association with water in riverine woodland, dense reedbeds or long grass. Essential habitat requirements are dense cover and water.

General ehaviour

Bushpigs are predominantly nocturnal, with some activity during the early morning and late evening during the winter months. They wallow in mud as a means of temperature regulation and as a protection against biting insects.

Groups (or sounders) usually consist of 4 –10 animals, a dominant boar and sow and other subadult sows and young. Breeding pairs are monogamous forming strong pair bonds. Bachelor groups and solitary animals also occur. Bushpigs are regarded as aggressive and can be dangerous if cornered, wounded or protecting piglets. When threatened bushpigs slash sideways with their sharp lower canines and can inflict serious injury.


Bushpigs are omnivorous and well adapted to range in forests, thickets and woodland. They use their hard flattened snoots to root for bulbs, tubers and rhizomes and will also eat insect pupae, earthworms and other animal matter when it is available.


The gestation period is about 119 days. Pregnant sows construct a haystack-type nest of grass in bush cover. The haystack is about 3m in diameter and 1 m high. A litter usually consisting of 2 – 4 piglets is born in the middle of the stack. The piglets follow the sow from 1 – 3 days after birth. An interesting fact is that in pigs each piglet has its own teat at which it feeds. Piglets have very characteristic colouration and are dark brown with characteristic longitudinal pale stripes along the sides of the body. This provides excellent camouflage in the dappled shadows of forest and woodland. The boar assists with rearing the piglets and is very attentive to their care and protection. Young pigs will remain with their parents in a family group until well after weaning.

Life span

13- 14 years


Bushpigs can be a problem in farming areas. It is rumoured that the bushpig can cross-breed with the domestic pig, Sus scrofa, but this hybrid has never been found or proven to occur. Conservation status: they are not regarded as threatened and are classified as low risk.

Text by Denise Hamerton

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