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Common Warthog (Phacochoerus africanus) Fact Sheet: Physical Characteristics

Physical Characteristics

Attribute Male Female
Body Weight 60-150 kg (132-331 lb) 50-75 kg (110-165 lb)
Head & Body Length 125-150 cm (4.1-4.9 ft) 105-140 cm (3.4-4.6 ft)
Shoulder Height 55-85 cm (1.8-2.8 ft)
Tail Length 35-50 cm (1.1-1.6 ft)

Body measurements summarized from Cumming 2013.

General Appearance

Body Shape (from Cumming 2013 unless otherwise noted)

  • Head large
    • Skull sharply sloped
    • Neck short (Cumming 2013; Meijaard et al. 2011)
  • Body
    • Robust, barrel-shaped (Meijaard et al. 2011)
    • Hair minimal (Grubb 2013)
  • Legs
    • Longer than other suids (Cumming 2013; Meijaard et al. 2011)
    • Knees calloused, even present in the fetus
  • Tail
    • Long and slender
    • Tip flattened and with dark hairs

Adult Pelage/Coat (from Cumming 2013 unless otherwise noted)

  • Body
    • Color dark-gray or black
      • Skin, not body hair, determines perceived color
      • Body sparsely covered with white bristles
        • Soil from holes or wallows adheres to hairs and gives the impression of a grey or brown body hue; obscures true body coloration
  • Mane
    • Yellowish to jet black (Meijaard et al. 2011)
      • Runs from the nape across the withers and along the back
        • Longest on the shoulders and neck (Meijaard et al. 2011)
      • Often held erect in displays
        • Associated with fight/flight situations

Piglet appearance

  • Piglets pinkish for a few days to weeks after birth (Smith 2011)

Facial Characteristics (from Cumming 2013 unless otherwise noted)

  • Broad appearance
    • Forehead, muzzle, and snout broad and flattened
  • Eyes
    • Placed high and wide on the head
  • Warts
    • Fibrous tissue growths (not bone), paired on either side of the face
      • Present on the cheek below the eye, on the lower jaw, and behind the upper tusks
      • Warts below the eye (infraocular) up to 15 cm (6 in) long, in males (Meijaard et al. 2011)
      • Lower jaw warts often small and obscured by tusks
  • Tusks
    • Formed by upper and lower canine teeth
    • Maximum length: c.25 cm (10 in)
      • Upper tusks are longer and flare upwards from the snout
        • Tips curve inwards in older individuals, particularly females
      • Lower tusks are straight, blade-like
        • Edges sharpened against the lower edge of the upper canine
  • Ears prominent
    • Held above the head
    • Broad rather than pointed
  • Sideburns
    • White hair along the posterior edge of the lower jaw

Sexual Dimorphism

Dimorphic in size

  • Males larger than females (Cumming 2013)
    • At birth, sexes are similar in size (Mason 1985)
    • Pronounced differences appear by 17 months of age (Mason 1985)
  • Male features
    • Tusks and warts larger than in females (Cumming 2013; Meijaard et al. 2011)
  • Female features
    • 4 pairs of mammae (Meijaard et al. 2011)

Other Characteristics

Adaptations

  • Anatomical adaptations(from Grubb 2013 unless otherwise noted)
    • Eyes set at top of head
      • Positioned to enable a clear and more extensive field of view, particularly when feeding (Cumming 2013; Grubb 2013)
    • Fibrous warts
      • Absorb blows during combat and cushion the skull (Cumming 2013; Grubb 2013)
      • Protect the brain and underlying tendons and muscles associated with feeding (Cumming 2013; Grubb 2013)
    • Snout/nose
      • Broad; shortened in front of tusks
      • Rarely used to dig for food as longer nosed pigs do
    • Teeth (from Cumming 2013 unless otherwise noted)
      • Diastema, gap placed between canines and premolars (Groves and Harris 2013)
        • Improves processing/grinding of tough vegetation (Groves and Harris 2013)
      • Hypsodont molars; elongated and very high-crowned, enamel extends past the gum line (Harris 2013b)
        • Prolongs tooth life, characteristic of many species that consume fibrous or abrasive plants (Harris 2013b)
      • Canines long and curved
        • Edges of lower, saber-like canines sharpened against the curved, upper canine teeth
        • Weapons to defend against predators
        • Tools to harvest grass seeds; shred grass seeds from stalks
        • Not used to dig holes or root for rhizomes and tubers, as has been inaccurately stated
  • Behavioral adaptations to temperature extremes
    • Body temperature sensitive to ambient conditions (Cumming 1975)
      • Seek shelter to avoid extremes in heat and cold (Cumming 1975)
      • Wallow in mud on hot days (Estes 1990)
      • Become active at night in some areas that experience intense daytime heat (de Jong and Butynski 2014)
        • Few reports of such activity

Chromosome number

  • 2n = 34 (Bosma 1978)

Features used to distinguish from similar species (from Cumming 2013 unless otherwise noted)

  • Infraocular wart shape of males
    • Desert warthog (Phacochoerus aethiopicus): bent forward; common warthog (P. africanus): conical (Cumming 2013; Meijaard et al. 2011)
  • Coat/body hair
    • Other African pigs (except the desert warthog, above) have shaggy coats; common warthog with minimal body hair

Warthog Tusks

a female Common Warthog and young

Warthogs are named for their characteristic facial "warts".

The most prominent of these fibrous growths are located on the cheeks, below the eyes.

Males have larger warts than females; their enlarged growths cushion the head and protect the eyes in battles for reproductive access to females. Both adult males and females have tusks.

Image credit: © Brian Gratwicke from Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Page Citations

Bosma (1978)
Cumming (1975)
Cumming (2013)
de Jong and Butynski (2014)
Estes (1990)
Groves and Harris (2013)
Grubb (2013)
Harris (2013b)
Mason (1985)
Meijaard et al. (2011)
Smith (2011)

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