15 April 2012 by Julienne du Toit

The irresistible clacking of warthogs

Wary, somewhat hairy, and thoroughly addicted to kikuyu lawn, these burrow-dwelling swine are rather charming. You’ll start off thinking only a mother could love a face like that. But in the end, you’ll find they kind of grow on you. Like warts.

A hog, fondly imagining himself near-invisible in the grasses. Photo: Chris Marais

Like most wildlife lovers, I have a real soft spot for warthogs, and their sheer ugliness is part of the appeal.

A grey beast with bristles and yes, enormous wart-like protuberances on its face, it is usually covered in mud. If given a choice between a drink of water and a mud wallow, a warthog will probably choose a wallow every time.

Best of all is a sighting of a warthog family, piglets in strict order, all moving in a hurry-trot, all with tails straight up in the air like antennae. You’ll have to move fast with your lens to get that picture.


										Warthog on the alert, ready to sprint away. Photo: Chris Marais.

It’s far easier to photograph them at certain game lodges, where they tame down to such an extent that you can come within a few metres of them before they startle and move away. They spend the days munching the green lawns on their knees. In fact a guide once told me that they spend so much time on their knees that the baby piglets were being born with pre-formed calluses. In hindsight, it may have been April Fool’s Day.

Warthogs rely on their vigilance plus their tusks to save them, and will reverse down their burrows so that they can charge out. This is why you should never stand in front of a burrow and peer down it. I’ve known game rangers that have walked on crutches for months after making that mistake.

A guide once told me that they spend so much time on their knees that the baby piglets were being born with pre-formed calluses. In hindsight, it may have been April Fool’s Day.

And how does such a remarkably ugly animal conduct a courtship? According to Richard Estes in his excellent book The Safari Companion, the male indicates his desire as follows: he “[follows] in a springy, hip-rolling gait, tail out and bent down, meanwhile clacking. Clacking is a chugging noise produced by clicking tongue or tusks, producing copious saliva.”

I’m thinking even the worst pick-up line has got to be better than being followed by a clacking, swaggering, drooling hog.

Category: Wildlife


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