Bushpig (Potamochoerus larvatus)

Bushpig 

Potamochoerus larvatus (F. Cuvier, 1822)

Bushpig

Photo: Deon Furstenburg

Afrikaans:Bosvark
German:Bushschwein
French:Potamochère
Swahili:Nguruwe
isiNdebele:Ingulungundu / Ifarigi yommango
isiZulu:Ingulube
isiXhosa:Ingulube
seSotho:Kolobe-moru
seTswana:Kolobê-nkotola
Shona:Humba, Nguruve
Shangaan:Khumba, Ngulube M'hlati
Venda:Nguluvhe
Nama/Damara:!Garohagub

IUCN Conservation Status:

Lower Risk, least concern (LR/lc)
Most farmers know the bushpig as a problem animal and they hate it with a passion. The three most destructive animals on farms in higher rainfall regions are elephant, hippo and bushpig. It thrives on a diet of sugar cane, pô-pô trees, banana trees and maize which it cuts at ground level with its razor sharp canines. It also unearths potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, beetroot and beans in their masses but only eats a few, trampling the remainder underfoot. Despite this the bushpig is still relished as a delicacy.

Taxonomy

Classification

Class:MAMMALIA
Supercohort:LAURASIATHERIA
Cohort:FERUNGULATA
Superorder:CETARTIODACTYLA
Order:SUIFORMES
Suborder:SUINA
Superfamily:Suiodea
Family:Suiidae
Subfamily:Phacochoerinae
Genus:Potamochoerus
Species:larvatus

The family is divided into three sub-families, Babyrousinae, Phacochoerinae and Suinae consisting of five genera and 16 species.

  • Potamochoerus, the bushpig and the red river hog of Africa
  • Hylochoerus meinertzhageni, the giant forest hog of western Africa
  • Phacochoerus, the warthog of sub-Saharan Africa
  • Babyrousa, the Babirusa of Indonesia
  • Sus, a widely distributed genus with the following species
  • Sus scrofa scrofa the Eurasian wild boar of the United Kingdom, New Guinea, Taiwan and Japan
  • S. scrofa barbarus the Barbary wild boar of northern Africa
  • S. scrofa cristatus the Indian wild boar of south-eastern Asia
  • S. verrucosus the Javian wild boar of Java and the Philippines
  • S. barbatus the bearded pig of Sumatra
  • S. salvanius the pygmy hog of northern India
  • S. scrofa the feral pig of New Zealand, Australia and the USA

The oldest Suidae fossils date back 30 million years. In Africa, the progenitor Xenochoerrus africanus was found in Namibian deposits from the middle Miocene 20-15 million years BP. Numerous species existed in the Pleistocene 1.8-0.1 million years BP including Notochoerus capensis, a species found in the Vaal River gravel that was twice the size of the warthog,
P. antiquus from Sterkfontein, Potamochoeroides shawi from Makapansgat and Metridiochoerus from Bolt’s farm.

Potamochoerus includes two species:

• the red river hog P. porcus • the bushpig P. larvatus

No evidence of inter-breeding between these two species has been found. The bushpig was formerly regarded as a subspecies of the red river hog and was known as P. porcus.

At present five sub-species are recognised:

• the East African bushpig P. larvatus hassama • the southern bushpig P.l. nyasa • the Cape bushbig P.l. koiropotamus • the Madagascan bushpigs P.l. larvatus and P. l. hova. Cases of cross breeding between the bushpig and the feral pig have been reported.

Description

A medium-sized, robust, body on short powerful legs. Its relative large mass, its low centre of gravity and its extreme power enables the pig to steamroller over potential danger making it an animal to fear. The head is elongated, tapering forward towards the snout. Bushpig boars have facial warts below the eye-banks similar to those of warthogs but are less prominent. The hide colour varies from red-brown in its western distribution to orange-yellow in Gabon, reddish-brown in Zimbabwe and blackish-brown in South Africa. With ageing the hide turns darker. The head and neck has yellow-white hair and a long, whitish mane of up to 16 cm stretching across the back to the tail base. Creamy-white, albinistic forms of bushpig are frequently recorded. Piglets are dark reddish-brown with prominent, horizontal yellow stripes along the back and flanks. The stripes disappear after 5-6 months. The body is covered with scarce, robust hair up to 8 cm in length. The mean adult shoulder height of bushpig is 65-70 cm and the mass 60-80 kg, although mature boars can reach 120 kg. The Barbary wild boar of northern Africa is 84 cm and 70-90 kg and the giant forest hog of western Africa 99 cm and 180-227 kg.

Comparison To Man

Wildlife Ranching Bushpig comparison to man

Trophy

The lower canines abrade the upper and prevent them spreading outwards. The upper canines forming the tusks are relatively small, compared to those of the warthog, and have razor sharp edges. The mean trophy length is 8-10 cm and the Rowland Ward qualifying trophy standard, 13.9 cm with a record length of 30.16 cm. Rowland-Ward recognises only one bushpig, P. larvatus.

Habitat requirement

Bush thicket, riverine, forest, marshland with tall grass, reed beds, and kloofs with a dense tree canopy.

Most important habitat parameters are:
• thick vegetation for refuge
• humid environment
• soft soil (hard soils are avoided)
• adequate food supply of bulbs,
fleshy roots, fruit and pods.

Such habitats are scattered which limits the bushpig distribution.Bushpig are becoming a major problem for the farming community. Agricultural lands enrich the habitat as the bushpig hide in the natural habitat by day and feed at night on the generous food resources offered by the farmer. Using the canines and the cartilaginous disc on the end of the snout, they plough up groundcover, loosen the soil and destroy herbaceous vegetation. They burrow under small stock fences, breaking the bottom wires and netting and creating escape paths for stock.

Distribution

Wildlife Ranching Bushpig distribution maps

Feeding & Nutrition

It is an opportunistic omnivore feeding on both meat and vegetable matter. Bushpig are predominantly nocturnal, most activity taking place from dusk to midnight and at dawn, but sometimes throughout the night. During daylight hours they take refuge in thicket vegetation.
Bushpig do not ruminate as they are monogastric, having a single stomach compartment. It has both lower and upper, well-developed incisors that are used for biting and tearing food such as meat. It burrows for bulbs, roots, insect larvae, caterpillars and locusts. The stems of plants such as pô-pô, sugarcane, bananas and maize are cut at ground level in order to reach the fruit. Other heavily utilised crops are beans, peas, peanuts, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, potatoes, carrots, pineapple, spanspek, watermelon, nuts, lucerne and green pasture. Very few chicken pens are strong enough to hold against the brutal force of a bushpig and they are often raided. There are records of bushpig breaking into domestic pig paddocks to kill both the sows and the young piglets.

Fresh as well as rotten and litter food material is utilized. Rotten tree trunks are broken open and the tree bark peeled off in the search of insects. Snakes, lizards and other reptiles are part of the diet but chicks and eggs in bird nests at ground level are favoured. The young of smaller antelope are often stalked and killed. Succulent plants and water sedges are an additional source of food.

Social structure

Bushpig are gregarious and social, living in sounders of 3-6 and occasionally up to 12 animals.

  • Family sounders consists of a dominant alpha boar, a dominant alpha sow, several sub-adult beta females and 1-9 piglets
  • Solitary young males (>6 months) and solitary sub-adult beta females (1-2 years). These individuals form 46% of the population.
  • Bachelor male groups that roam across the home ranges of 2-3 family sounders.

Bushpig are area-bound with a fixed home range and no territorial behaviour. They do not migrate but move the home range when food resources become depleted. Groups are intolerant of each other, except when an area holds a large agricultural land with ample food. Both the boar and sow exhibit aggressive behaviour towards intruders.

Disease

Bushpig are highly susceptible to swine-fever, mange, colds and cannot tolerate malnutrition during droughts when high mortalities occur.

Information Table


Southern Bushpig information table
Characteristic
Boar
Sow
Adult body weight
kg
50-90
45-70
Adult shoulder height
cm
66-79
60-79
Expected longevity
years
12-15
12-15
Age of sexual maturity
months
18-21
15-18
Age of social adulthood (1st mating)
months
28-30
18-20
Gestation
days

110-120
1st piglet born at
months

10
Furrow interval
months

10-12
Post maturity age (last mating)
years
10
10
Rutting season
Year round
Birth season

Year round (Peak Nov-Jan)
Weaning age months
4
Gender ratio: Natural (All Ages)
1
1
Gender ratio: Production (all ages)
1
2
Mating ratio: Natural (adults)
1
2-4
Mating ratio: Production (adults)
1
4
Re-establishment: Absolute minimum number needed
1
2
Re-establishment: Smallest viable population size
2
5
Spatial behaviour: Home range
ha
400-1000
400-1000
Spatial behaviour: Territory range
ha
None
None
Large stock grazing unit (adult):
Dietary ratio (grass):
LSU
0.22 per animal
(80% of diet)
0.22 per
animal
(80% of diet)
Browsing unit (Adult):
Dietary ratio: (Browse):
BU
0.52 per animal
(20% of diet)
0.52 per
animal
(20% of diet)
Maximum stocking Load
16 animals per 1000 ha
Minimum habitat size required
ha
150
Annual population growth
60-80% (mean 65%)
Optimal annual rainfall
400-800mm
Optimal vegetation structure:
Grass Height:
Woody canopy cover:

25-200 cm
65-100%

Bibliography

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