Potamochoerus porcusred river hog

Geographic Range

West and Central Sub-Saharan Africa to Northern South Africa and Madagascar.


The habitats occupied by this species vary greatly. They inhabit primary and secondary forests, thickets in savannahs, swamps, and steppes. They also congregate around human villages.

Physical Description

With thirteen recognized sub-species (which are subdivided into two separate species in some texts), Potamochoerus porcus varies in physical characteristics across its range, especially with regard to coloration. West-African bush pigs are predominantly reddish with a white dorsal stripe, while in the eastern and southern parts of their range, bush pigs can vary from red to shades of brown or black. In some eastern and southern regions, they become darker with age. White facial masks are present on many bush pigs. The head and body length is approximately 1-1.5 meters while the tail is between 0.3 and 0.4 meters. Adults stand about 0.5-0.9 meters tall at the shoulder. Newborns weigh less than 1 kg. Other prominent features include ventrally-pointing upper tusks (76mm) which occlude with dorsally-pointing lower tusks (165-190mm). Tusks occur on both sexes. Males are distinctive from females in that they posess warts above their eyes. Bush pigs have also been referred to as "tufted pigs" due to their long, white whiskers and ear tufts.

  • Range mass
    46 to 130 kg
    101.32 to 286.34 lb


Females are reproductively mature at age three. Their gestation period is approximately 120-127 days and their litter sizes range from 1-6, with average littlers containing four individuals. Young weigh between 650-900g. The breeding season lasts from September to April and is at its peak during the wet season from November to February. Sows construct grass nests (3 meters wide by 1 meter deep). Bush pigs are monogamous and both the mother and dominant boar of the small familial group supply care and protection to the young. Females give birth once annually.

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average gestation period
    122 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    1096 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    Sex: male
    1096 days



Potamochoerus porcus are social animals. While adults of both sexes have been known to be solitary, most live in small groups of up to eleven individuals. Large agregations of over 100 animals have been recorded. The typical group contains three to six individuals. in most cases, one dominant, adult male boar is present in these small family groups. Bush pigs mark their paths by scraping tree trunks with their canines (tusks) as well as using foot glands, neck glands, and preorbital glands. Threat displays involve displays of their facial masks and the production of loud noises. Bush pigs fight by pressing their foreheads together, butting heads, jabbing with their snouts and whipping each other with their tails. Bush pigs are most active at night and spends the day in burrows amond dense vegatation.

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Potamochoerus porcus is omnivorous, and is quite a generalist in terms of food preference. Food items include roots, fruit, seeds, water plants, nuts, grasses, crops, fungi, insects, bird eggs, snails, reptiles, carrion, and domestic animals such as piglets, goats, and sheep. They dig in soil using their canines for roots, bulbs and insects, but can also swim and forage for water plants. Bush pigs have been known to follow chimpanzees in search of fallen fruit. They especially enjoy the seeds of the tree Balanites wilsoniana, which they find undigested in the feces of elephants.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Potamochoerus porcus is a potential food source for humans. It has been suggested that it is possible to domesticate the bush pig.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

With the reduction in populations of leopards, the bush pig's main predator, populations of the pig have been on the rise. This is detrimental in many ways to human populations because large groups of bush pigs can wreak considerable havoc on crops. They also eat livestock and can be carriers of diseases, such as African Swine Fever, which affect domestic livestock. African Swine fever is carried by ticks, and while it does not harm Potomachoerus porcus, they can transmit the disease to domestic pigs, in which the disease is fatal.

Conservation Status

Numbers of Potamochoerus porcus are on the rise due to hunting of leopards and the increase in agriculture. Due to their availability as food sources for humans, and especially in light of their negative economic impacts on humans, bush pigs are hunted in Africa.

Other Comments

An interesting note is that Potamochoerus porcus occurs on both mainland Africa as well as Madagascar. Two explanations for the radiation of this species to Madagascar from the mainland have been proposed. The first is that humans introduced the species. The second is that bush pigs first arrived on Madagascar as a result of floating on papyrus beds, which sometimes detach and float out to sea.


Matthew Wund (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


uses touch to communicate

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, 6th Ed.. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Parker, S. 1990. Grzimek's Encyclopedia of African Mammals. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Smith, S. 1985. The Atlas of Africa's Principle Mammals. Sandton: Natural History Books.