Brains before beauty

I am not a great believer in taming wild animals but every now and then I get to meet a tame one and it gives me an opportunity to get to see them up close and learn more about them.  We still have to remember that although tame, they are wild animals and are potentially dangerous.  This last weekend I met Matumi.  He is a 7-year-old warthog that has adopted the owner of the Matumi lodge.

Matumi lives outside with the other wild warthogs in the bush but on occasion knocks on the door and insists on coming into the lodge bar to have a snooze.  One of his wives was killed by a lion and he brought all of her babies from that season to the lodge to be looked after before he ran off back into the bush. They were probably more than he could handle.

Meet Matumi


The warthog (Phacochoerus africanus) grows to a length of   1 to 1.5 meters and can weigh up to 150 kilograms.  They live to between 12 and 18 years old.

Warthogs may not be the most beautiful or graceful creatures in the animal kingdom, but they are remarkable for their strength, intelligence, and flexibility.  Unlike many of their African counterparts, they are not endangered because they are so skilled at adapting to new threats. For example, most warthogs like to forage during the light of the morning and early evening. But if they live in an area where they are hunted by people, they switch to foraging at night.

Warthogs have longer legs than most other kinds of swine, so they can run away from potential predators, reaching speeds of up to 55 kilometers per hour. Lions, cheetahs, leopards, African wild dogs, hyenas, eagles (and many humans) all like to snack on a warthog when they get a chance. But it’s not easy to catch them. In addition to being good at dodging and running, warthogs are not afraid to fight. They use their sharp lower canine teeth (which look like straight tusks) as weapons, while squealing at the top of their lungs.

Males, called boars, have the most obvious “warts.” At mating time the reason for these thick skin growths becomes obvious. The boars push and ram each other with their heads and their blunt upper tusks to see who is the most powerful. Fortunately, their warts act as pads to cushion the blows, so they rarely injure each other. Eventually one boar gives up, and the other boar gets to mate with the females, called sows. Then the boars go back to the solitary life until the next mating season.

Warthog sows are much more social than the boars. They stay in groups of up to 40 warthogs together with their young. The sows communicate with grunts, chirrups, growls, snorts, and squeals, which can be greetings, threats, and warnings, among other things. They also like to lie close together and will even groom each other.

Like most swine, warthogs are not picky eaters. They eat grass, roots, berries, tree bark, and even dead animals.

As you might suspect when you look at their big noses, warthogs are good sniffers, so it’s easy for them to smell things underground that they might want to root for. They often kneel down on their front legs and use their muscular snouts to dig up their dinner. They will even shuffle along in the kneeling position if there are plenty of tasty things in the area. When they move slowly, their tails hang down, but when they run, their tails stick up with the bushy tip hanging down. This may serve as a warning to other warthogs if danger is near.

Warthogs are also not very picky about their homes. Instead of digging their own burrows, they find abandoned aardvark holes or natural burrows for homes to raise their young, sleep, and hide from predators. They usually back into their burrows, so they can use their sharp tusks to scare off any animal that bothers them. The burrows also protect them from temperature extremes.

Warthog facts:

When a male warthog wants to attract a female, he does a courtship “chant” of rhythmic grunts that sounds like an engine in need of a tune-up.
A warthog’s “warts” are not really warts, they’re just thick growths of skin. Even though the growths stick out, they don’t have any bones or cartilage.
When humans get out of bed, they often stumble along groggily, rubbing their eyes to wake up. Warthogs don’t have the luxury of waking up slowly. When they leave their burrow, they dash out at top speed in case any predators are lying in wait for them



Photo courtesy of flikr (safari and guide services)

Some info from:


12 thoughts on “Brains before beauty

  1. Great post and love the photos. I can’t imagine the reaction of finding a wild boar in a bar here in the States! Any chance of see these on the route of my tour?


    • Ha – he walked into the bar while we were sitting there and my first reaction was shock and horror because i did’nt know he was tame 🙂 I don’t think you find these that far south but you will see quite a few other animals out in nature if you are patient 🙂


  2. Good morning from Cape Town. I just loved this little snippet about Warthogs. They are so ugly that they are beautiful in a lumpy, bumpy, spikey way. I also love it when they run, babies in tow and all the little tails stick up in the air.
    Thank you for visiting my blog; I’m pleased to know that you are benefitting from the essence of the citrus fruit in the citrus pack house. Inhale deeply and consciously enjoy every moment.
    I would appreciate more feedback as you become more and more aware of beneficial changes.


    • Thanks Kate and thanks for popping by. Currently we are packing mangoes and i am still managing in the mornings but its just not the same as in citrus season. I find the lemon fragrance the most powerful but that may just be because they are the first citrus we pack of the season.


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