It is not easy being a guest author on this blog, for a number of reasons. First of all, there are the high expectations of the increasingly large number of readers – can you really be as entertaining and informative as Adlaya? Secondly, how does one cover up one’s profound ignorance of animals? Thirdly, how can you even find an animal to write about, since so many have already been done?

I started with the third problem – after checking closely, it turns out that there was a glaring omission – no post has been done about that epitome of zoological beauty, the common warthog (or just plain “warthog”). Shocking, but true – until today. Let’s pay homage to the warthog.

According to Wikipedia, “Phacochoerus is a genus of wild pigs in the Suidae family, known as warthogs. It is the sole genus of subfamily Phacochoerinae.” Since no normal person knows what any of that means, we can safely move on, but at least you can answer if anyone asks where warthogs fit into the Grand Scheme of Things.

A warthog, seen from one of its many best sides. It’s looking for something good. Photo credit: The author
A warthog, seen from one of its many best sides. It’s looking for something good.
Photo credit: The author, with permission

Warthog habitats can be described in a variety of ways, such as “arid and semi-arid”, “open forest”, “savannah”, and so on, but let’s keep it simple. Warthogs live in Africa, and they don’t live in trees. That pretty well covers it. There are lots of warthogs, because Africa is a big place, and not all of it is jungle or forest. So, unlike a lot of wild animals, warthogs are doing okay.

Warthogs, which are essentially wild pigs or boars, are pretty hefty critters. They are somewhere between 60 and 90 cm high at the shoulder, and they weigh between 50 and 115 kg. For comparison, an adult male warthog weighs about the same as an average football player or biker, while an adult female warthog is equivalent in mass to a cheerleader or biker chick.

But of course it’s the warthog’s stunningly attractive physical appearance, rather than its bulk, that earns it a place in our hearts. Warthogs are hairless, except for a mane of coarse hair along their necks and backs. Warthog skin is grey, but the warthog predilection for mud-wallowing may give a warthog a healthy, earthy glow.

The warthog’s tusks complement the warthog’s general aesthetic appeal. The upper tusks, which are used for digging, form a semicircle, while the lower tusks, which are used against predators, wear against the base of the upper tusks, giving them dangerously sharp edges. While warthogs are not aggressive, you don’t want to piss one off, back it into a corner, or play catch with its piglets.

The male’s skin growths on the side of its head and beneath its eyes give it the catchy descriptor “wart” (hog). These “warts” have no apparent purpose, but what warts do? They aren’t really warts anyway, and your mileage will vary in terms of just how ugly or attractive they are. And don’t be embarrassed if you’re judgmental and think warthogs are ugly, because female warthogs don’t, and that’s what counts. This naturally leads us into our next topic.

Warthogs, as you’d expect, are happy, gregarious creatures that live in groups of varying sizes, usually in the single digits. Mostly these are made up of females and young warthogs (“wartlets”?), with males abandoning their usual narcissistic, solitary existence and joining up during the mating season. The males then engage in the standard ritualized combat, which presumably is intended to convince the females that they are getting the cream of the crop when it comes time to get down to business. I mean, you can’t go by looks alone, right?

They are pretty, aren’t they?
Image by Charles James Sharp, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Through the miracle that is nature, about six months later little warthogs come into the world, in litters ranging in size from one to eight. A year and a half after that, the little spuds are ready for some ritualized combat of their own, and off they go. Warthogs have lived nearly 20 years in captivity. Warthogs in the wild that die sooner don’t live as long.

Warthogs are largely herbivorous, subsisting mainly on grass, but also fruit, bark, bulbs and roots, as well as the occasional small animal and carrion. In other words, warthogs eat almost anything, and since they avoid human agriculture, aren’t thought to have any parts that are magically beneficial, and don’t make good wall trophies, they are about as immune to human stupidity and greed as a wild animal can be. So warthogs don’t need to be protected, which frees us up to devote our efforts to help more attractive (in human terms) but no cooler other animals. And deep down we all know the wonderful warthog is just as beautiful as every other animal.

Cover image by Diego Delso, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons