Warthogs (Phacochoerus africanus) are ubiquitous in the Eastern Cape. There are sounders of them all over the Addo Elephant National Park that are ignored by many visitors who drive past them, possibly hoping to see ‘more interesting’ or ‘spectacular’ animals further on. Next time you see one close to the road, stop for a moment and watch how the warthog eats. The first thing you might notice is the typical kneeling position they take up when feeding. Callouses on their wrist pads are present from birth and cushion them while the warthogs feed. Their rather strange-looking short neck helps to provide the leverage it requires to dig up tubers or pull up grass.

It is thus worth taking note of the warthog’s rather flat face ending in a rounded snout that encloses the nostrils. This shovel like upper lip is hardened cartilage, which makes it every bit as useful for eating as is the trunk to an elephant.

The prominent warts on the face are a combination of bone and cartilage which helps to protect their faces should they get into a fight. The tusks on their upper and lower jaws are not only used to fight and defend themselves against predators, but for eating. Warthogs can use their tusks and their tough snouts to lift the soil if necessary. This warthog is shovelling the soil with its upper lip.

Eating and breathing go together. Here the warthog is blowing the pile of soil away.

There is more to the common warthog than meets the eye at first glance!


Warthogs (Phacochoerus africanus) are called thus because of the wart-like protuberances on their faces that really consist of bone and cartilage. You might like to look at them more closely the next time you get an opportunity to see them and note that the boar has two pairs (which they use for defense when fighting as these provide a cushion to the blows from the tusks of their opponent) while the sow sports only one pair of ‘warts’.

I was looking through a list of collective nouns recently and wonder if you already know that a group of warthogs is called a sounder of warthogs. As female warthogs tend to live in matriarchal groups, usually consisting of one or two adult females and their young, they ought to be called sounders. I have been unable to discover why this particular word is used.

Apart from the apparent facial warts, warthogs also sport white facial crests which, in the right light and angle, look a bit like tusks. The role of these is to make the animals look a lot fiercer than they are when threatened.


The urban lifestyle is so far removed from the natural order of things: eat and be eaten. While some may have fruit and vegetables growing in their gardens or on their balconies, the majority of urbanites rely on supermarkets, butchers, bakeries and the like for their daily food. Meat comes wrapped in styrofoam and plastic, bread is pre-sliced in plastic bags, vegetables are ready picked and washed on the shelves – perhaps even pre-chopped / sliced / mixed all ready for roasting or stir-frying …

That is not the case in nature, where the eat and be eaten order applies.

This is what remains of a Mountain Tortoise:

A Zebra munches the dry winter grass:

What is left of a Kudu:

The grisly end of a Cape Buffalo that had been a meal for many:

This is a Warthog grazing – note the way it rests on its front knees:

They also rest on their knees when drinking:

An elephant tucks into a nutritious meal: