The Bushpig is scientifically known as the Potamochoerus larvatus, and is a member of the large Suidae (or swine) family which consists of pigs, boars, and hogs.
The scientific name is a mix of terms from the Greek and Latin languages: Potamos (Greek) means “a river”, khoiros (Greek) means “pig”, Larva (Latin) meaning “a ghost/mask” and astus meaning “having”. When the terms are put together, it translates to “a pig with a mask, wallowing in the water”.
The Bush pig is said to be the African version of the European wild boar as the two mammals share similar physical features and social behaviors. This pig is closely related to the red river hog (Potamochoerus porcus), and until recently was classified as a subspecies of the red river hog. The Bush pig has less colorful body markings, a different hair texture and larger in size which distinguishes it from the red river hog. Bush pigs have a fairly short lifespan, surviving for 13-14 years in the wild and 20 years in captivity. A female bush pig is referred to as a sow, a male is called a boar, and a baby is called a piglet or shoat.
BushPig Physical Facts
Bushpigs are a strong, hairy and round pig that is identified by their muscular, blunt snouts; pointed, white-tufted ears; small legs; buckled toes; a tail that is ruler length (30 centimeters) and small eyes.
Bush pigs have a brown color that varies according to age and geographical region. The color varies from a reddish-brown to a dark brown. At birth, they have brown and yellow stripes. As they get older, they get darker and the stripes disappear. The upper areas of the ears and face and manes of the male and female are lighter in color in comparison with the rest of the body. When the Bush pig is agitated, it often bristles its mane. An important physical feature is their tusks. The upper tusks are hardly visible unless one observes the pig from a close range. The lower tusks are far more visible; they are described as being razor-sharp and can grow up to a short seven centimeters in length.
An adult Bush pig can weigh up to 150 kilograms, however, the common weight is less than 90 kilograms. The females are the smallest, weighing anything between 48 kilograms and 66 kilograms, while their male counterparts can weigh between 46 kilograms and 82 kilograms. When it comes to the length of this mammal, females, and males are the same. Adult Bush pigs can grow to be between 90 centimeters and 115 centimeters long.
Warthogs and Bush pigs are often confused for each other because of the similar physical features and social behaviors. There are however some key ways in which an observer can tell the difference between the two. The most obvious way is to look at the tusks – Bush pigs have shorter tusks. Another way to tell the difference is by looking at the hooves – the hooves of a Bush pig are broader and the dewclaws often leave clear marks in the spoor. Another point of observation is looking at how the pig runs; a Bush pig runs with its tails down while Warthogs run with their tails facing up.
BushPig Diet Facts
The Bushpig is adventurous with their diet and falls under the omnivorous classification. Their diet is described as adventurous as they eat a wide variety of foods. In the wild, they feed on plant roots, fruits, insect larvae, tubers, rhizomes and carrion (the decaying flesh of dead animals). They also tend to enjoy living in close proximity to human settlements and agricultural areas. This means they also feed on food crops such as sugar cane, tomatoes, maize, potatoes and other vegetables that may be found.
BushPig Habitat & Distribution
Bush pigs find their homes in a vast number of areas. They can be found in swamps, reedbeds, montane grasslands, shrublands, riverine woodlands, mixed scrub, flooded forests, semi-arid areas, dense forests and underbrush situations that are along rivers and streams. They are also often found near the bases of mountains. Bush pigs can also adapt to habitats that have been influenced or inhabited by humans such as farms.
The Bush pig is a widely distributed animal. This mammal is common to the South African animal kingdom and can be found in the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga, Kwazulu-Natal, and Northern Cape provinces. It can also be found further north in the tropical climate parts of other African countries. Countries, where the bush pig will definitely be spotted, include Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Malawi, Ethiopia, Somalia, the southern and eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Rwanda, and Burundi. Research has also shown that the Bush pig is found in Madagascar and the islands of the Comoros Archipelago (commonly known the as Comoros Islands). It is, however, unclear how Bush pigs have reached these islands. The dominant theory is that they were taken there by humans after a domestication period.
BushPig Social Behavior
Bush pigs are described as mainly nocturnal and territorial land creatures. The bush pigs move less than five kilometers a day. They tend to be more active during the day time in the cooler months. Their territorial nature means that they can also be very aggressive to each other and to other animals. The aggression is usually seen when they have to protect their area or when they have to protect the younger Bush pigs; for example, when they are caught off guard in the bush or are wounded when hunting, they use their protruding, sharp canines to cause serious wounds to the victim. When it is cold and rainy, they tend to build nests to keep warm.
Unlike some of their swine family members, Bush pigs are known to be very social animals and participate in communal living instead of being isolated. Bush pigs are often found in sounders (Bush pig groups) of between 8 and 12 members. A sounder is typically made up of a dominant male Bush pig and a dominant female Bush pig. The rest of the group is made up of solely females and piglets.
One of the Bush pigs’ favorite activities is to wallow in water, which explains the scientific name translation. When wallowing, they roll around or lie in mud or dust. This activity is done as a way to prevent overheating (by cooling down) and to protect themselves from insect bites.
When communicating with each other or to warn each other of a possible predator, Bush pigs make different sounds. For example, when foraging (hunting or savaging), they grunt softly or make a loud sequel, and when they need to warn each other they make a long, resonant growl as an alarm call.
BushPigs Mating & Breeding Behaviour
Bush pigs have a polygynous mating system. What this means is that one male (or boar) mates with multiple females once he has reached sexual maturity. The age of sexual maturity is between 18 and 21 months for both males and females. Once the boar is ready to mate, he usually has to compete with other males in order to be allowed to mate with the female he wishes to mate with. The males compete by having forehead showing showdowns and by butting heads with each other. Once he wins, he is allowed to mate with that particular female.
Research indicates that Bush pigs do not have a specific mating time period or season, they mate throughout the year. Despite the lack of a specific time period, observations indicate that breeding season takes place between the autumn/winter months of May and June, and most piglets are born in the spring season between the months of September and November. After a gestation period of four months, the sow can give birth to anything between one to eight piglets, however, it is more common for them to give birth to a maximum of four piglets. At birth, the piglets weigh a small 700 grams. The piglets spend the first few days of their life in the sheltered nest or hollow where they were born and are then introduced to the rest of the group. For the piglets, the nursing period will usually be between two to four months.
The piglets are described as being independent once the dominant male and female of the group push them or evict them from the group. This usually occurs once they are around six months of age. The piglets are also well taken care of by their fathers. The fathers play an active role in defending the piglets and rearing them. He also leads and guards them to feeding areas.
BushPig Quick Facts
- Bush pigs are listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources as an animal of least concern (meaning that they have a stable population).
- Bush pigs have a number of predators. The main ones include leopards and humans. To humans, especially those in agricultural areas, Bush pigs are viewed as “problem animals” because they have a habit of destroying and feeding on agricultural crops. Humans also hunt bush pigs for consumption and as a popular “social activity” in South Africa.
- There are six subspecies of the Bush pig, although wildlife research indicates that they do not have much physical difference between them. The different species are:
- Potamochoerus larvatus nyasae (Nyasan bushpig)
- Potamochoerus larvatus somaliensis (Somalian bushpig)
- Potamochoerus larvatus edwardsi (Edwards' bushpig)
- Potamochoerus larvatus koiropotamus (Southern bushpig)
- Potamochoerus larvatus hassama (White-faced bushpig)
- Potamochoerus larvatus larvatus (Madagascar bushpig)
- Bush pigs are known to be very talented swimmers.
The group names for Bush pigs are: drift, team, herd, sounder and drove.
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