Did you know?
Warthogs reverse down their burrows so that any pursuer has to deal with their sharp tusks.
One of the most endearing characters of the bushveld is the warthog – portrayed by Hollywood as the smelly Pumba in The Lion King.
Like Pumba, warthogs are a comical treat to watch and are present in most game reserves, where they can be seen grazing short pastures on their callused front knees, rumps in the air.
When startled, they run off with tails in the air like antennae.
Their name comes from the large ‘warts’ underneath their eyes, made of thickened skin and gristle. The males have two sets of warts – one set under the eyes and one further down the snout. When competing for females, they battle head to head, striking each another with their formidable tusks. Because of this, many zoologists speculate that the warts are for protection when fighting.
Males (boars) will indicate that they’re interested in females (sows) by making clacking noises with their tusks and tongue, drooling copiously and following them with an unmistakable hip-rolling swagger.
The other distinguishing characteristic of warthogs is their relative hairlessness. They only have bristles, whiskers and a mane. Maybe because of this, they are besotted with wallowing in mud.
Once the mud-pack has dried, they’ll rub themselves against a stump or tree and get rid of irritating parasites like ticks.
Their diet mostly consists of grass, but when that isn’t fresh and green, they’ll focus, as pigs do, on uprooting tubers with their snouts.
And although they show great skill in digging for roots, they don’t seem to show nearly the same enthusiasm for digging burrows. They usually just look for a likely aardvark excavation and move in. They’ll only stay a few days anyway – warthogs are delicious to eat and lions have been known to follow them to their burrows and wait for them to emerge in the morning.
Travel tips & Planning info
How to get here
You’ll see warthogs in almost all game reserves or parks in South Africa, but they are particularly easy to see in the Addo Elephant National Park around waterholes, in various KwaZulu-Natal parks, in the Pilanesberg National Park and in the Kruger National Park.
Look for them around rest camps, where they are very fond of the short lawn.
Best time to visit
In winter you may see them more easily because the vegetation is generally thinner, but in summer you may catch them wallowing in mud or lying up in the shade, often with young hogs.
You’ll easily be able to see warthogs on a self-drive game drive or with a guide.
What will it cost
This is one of the ‘cheapest’ animals to see, since they are plentiful. In the Eastern Cape around Grahamstown, they’re often seen from the road.
What to pack
Take along your binoculars because in some parks, they are too skittish to allow you too close.