Potamochoerus larvatus (F. Cuvier, 1822)
Photo: Deon Furstenburg
|isiNdebele:||Ingulungundu / Ifarigi yommango|
|Shangaan:||Khumba, Ngulube M'hlati|
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Bushpig are highly
susceptible to swine-fever, mange, colds and cannot tolerate
malnutrition during droughts when high mortalities occur.
|Southern Bushpig information table
|Adult body weight
|Adult shoulder height
|Age of sexual maturity
|Age of social adulthood (1st mating)
|1st piglet born at
|Post maturity age (last mating)
|Gender ratio: Natural (All Ages)
|Gender ratio: Production (all ages)
|Mating ratio: Natural (adults)
|Mating ratio: Production (adults)
Absolute minimum number needed
Smallest viable population size
|Spatial behaviour: Home range
|Spatial behaviour: Territory range
|Large stock grazing unit (adult):
Dietary ratio (grass):
0.22 per animal
(80% of diet)
(80% of diet)
|Browsing unit (Adult):
Dietary ratio: (Browse):
|0.52 per animal
(20% of diet)
(20% of diet)
|Maximum stocking Load
|16 animals per 1000 ha
|Minimum habitat size required
|Annual population growth
|60-80% (mean 65%)
|Optimal annual rainfall
|Optimal vegetation structure:
Woody canopy cover:
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