We’ve all heard the expression “he’s so ugly only his mother could love him!” Well, I think the saying originated when man got his first glimpse of a warthog. These denizens of the African bushveld, with wart-like bumps and course whiskers on their flat elongated faces, are downright ugly.
Warthogs are found south of the Sahara and are all over Namibia. They’re mostly seen grazing at the side of the road in small groups. Their solid little bodies are a real hazard to traffic and hitting one in a fast-moving vehicle is not recommended, hence the need for warning road signs wherever they are prevalent.
Warthogs are supposed to have poor sight, but if you stop at the side of the road to photograph them, they run off at high speed with their tails in the air. Either their eyesight is better than we think or they have an inbuilt radar system to warn them of our presence. Their hearing and sense of smell is apparently very good.
They can exist on very little water, but if there is water around they drink regularly. They love to wallow in mud or roll in sand so are mostly seen caked in dirt.
They live in burrows, usually those already dug by aardvarks, and if they are threatened, they slide backwards into their holes so that they can defend themselves with their tusks, which both males and females have. Their main predators are leopards and lions, so they aren’t under threat very often.
We met this tame little warthog at a campsite recently. It was about six months old and had been hand-reared. He was a talkative little fellow and grunted his way through a long conversation with me, between attempts at untying my shoelaces and nibbling my jeans!
Litters are limited to four babies, as female warthogs only have four teats and the young suckle from their own teat for at least four months. When grazing they bend their well-padded and calloused front knees to enable them to pick up food from the ground. Their diet consists of grass, seeds, bulbs and tubers.
The scientific name for a warthog is Phacochoerus aethiopicus. I’m not sure of the direct translation of that name – perhaps it is ‘ugly of uglies!”