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The common warthog (Phacochoerus africanus) is a wild member of the pig family (Suidae) found in grassland, savanna, and woodland in sub-Saharan Africa.[1][2] In the past, it was commonly treated as a subspecies of P. aethiopicus, but today that scientific name is restricted to the desert warthog of northern Kenya, Somalia, and eastern Ethiopia.[3]

Impala at Etosha National Park

Common warthogs are seasonal breeders.[7] Rutting begins in the late rainy or early dry season and birthing begins near the start of the following rainy season.[7] The mating system is described as "overlap promiscuity"; the males have ranges overlapping several female ranges, and the daily behavior of the female is unpredictable. Boars employ two mating strategies during the rut. With the "staying tactic", a boar will stay and defend certain females or a resource valuable to them. Common warthogs are seasonal breeders.[7] Rutting begins in the late rainy or early dry season and birthing begins near the start of the following rainy season.[7] The mating system is described as "overlap promiscuity"; the males have ranges overlapping several female ranges, and the daily behavior of the female is unpredictable. Boars employ two mating strategies during the rut. With the "staying tactic", a boar will stay and defend certain females or a resource valuable to them.[18] In the "roaming tactic", boars seek out estrous sows and compete for them.[18] Boars will wait for sows to emerge outside their burrows.[7] A dominant boar will displace any other boar that also tries to court his female. When a sow leaves her den, the boar will try to demonstrate his dominance and then follow her before copulation.[7] For the "staying tactic", monogamy, female-defense polygyny, or resource-defense polygyny is promoted, while the "roaming tactic" promotes scramble-competition polygyny.[18]

The typical gestation period is five to six months. When they are about to give birth, sows temporarily leave their families to farrow in a separate hole.[7] The litter is 2–8 piglets, with 2–4 typical. The sow will stay in the hole for several weeks, nursing her piglets.[7] Common warthog sows have been observed to nurse foster piglets if they lose their own litter.[19] This behavior, known as allosucking, makes them cooperative breeders. Allosucking does not seem to be a case of mistaken identity or milk theft,[19] and may be a sign of kin altruism. Piglets begin grazing at about two to three weeks and are weaned by six months.[7] Piglets quickly attain mobility and stay close to their mothers for defense.[20]

As of 1999, the common warthog population in southern Africa is estimated to be about 250,000.[21] Typical densities range between one and 10 per km2 in protected areas, but local densities of 77 per km2 were found on short grass in Nakuru National Park.[22] The species is susceptible to drought and hunting (especially with dogs), which may result in localized extinctions.[1] The common warthog is present in numerous protected areas across its extensive range.[1]

Related species