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The warthog (Phacochoerus aethiopicus, Ngiri) is quite large and stocky, thirty inches high and about 180 to 200 pounds (82-91 kg). The body is gray in color and lacks much hair except for a bristly mane. Instantly recognizable is the ugly face covered in large warty bumps. Its ugliness is not diminished by a head that seems too big and large upward-curving tusks which protrude from either side of the mouth.

The tusks may help it used to dig underground for roots and tubers, but they also serve to display male size and strength. Some believe the bumps or 'warts' on the head protect the warthog's eyes when it grubs in the earth. However, their main role is most likely to protect the head during battles between rival males.

Warthogs are major items on the menus of each of the three big cats and the young also fall victim to many of the smaller predators. When a warthog is alarmed it will trot off with its tail mast-like, straight up in the air. The erect tail is a warning flag to other warthogs and soon the whole family is trotting along in the same way. If not served up to a predator, a warthog may live 15 years or even longer.

When cornered a warthog is a vicious and formidable fighter. It probably inflicts more wounds on humans than any other plains animal.

Warthogs eat a wide range of foods. During the rainy season, they prefer grasses, but when these decline they turn to rooting for tubers with their robust snout. They're not fussy and if pressed will eat bark, carrion and even animal droppings.

They live ten to fifteen years and the gestation period is six months. The young are raised in shallow burrows which the parents have excavated. Litter sizes vary depending on the condition of the female; two or three is average.

Warthog social life is quite complicated. They roam in small family groups, comprising a couple of females, whereas the males tend to be solitary. They occupy burrows at the center of a territory about 0.5 sq km. These groups are organized in larger communities, of hundreds of individuals, which move between the burrows. Burrows are held with little possessiveness, and occasionally shared, although the family groups prefer not to.

Warthogs are widely distributed in savannas and grasslands throughout most of sub-Saharan Africa and can be seen in many African reserves.


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