Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Year of the pig – let’s talk about hogs!

According to the Chinese (Lunar) calendar and starting today, 2019 is the Year of the Pig. We will take this opportunity to have a look the hogs (pigs) at Chimp&See as we’ve just realized, we have never really talked about them before and don’t have a formal guide (yet!).

Chimp&See features four different hog species with some great video footage. They all have large body sizes, a wedge-shaped big head and the signature out-turned huge canine tusks in common. But a closer look at fur, adaptations, and also location of occurrence shows striking differences.

A short video guide from our camera trap footage - and more details below.

Giant forest hogs (Hylochoerus meinertzhageni) can be seen in all African forest habitats. As the name suggest, they are the biggest African hog, heavily build with a big, sturdy head and broad, naked face. They have often rather spare dark fur with the lighter orangey-brown skin shining through. Variation in coat length and density and in different lighting situations let them appear in a wide range from light-brown and hairless to almost black with a thick fur. Male giant forest hogs can have enormously swollen preorbital glands (shown in the screenshot below) that are considered as a type of scent glands, but could also have anti-pathogenic effects.

A giant forest hog with enormously swollen preorbital glands.

Red river hogs (Potamochoerus porcus) can be seen often and in big groups at almost every West and Central African site. Their shiny red coat is short and very well visible in the forest. A clear blonde dorsal crest is usually seen. The faces are dark with white cheek tufts; the ears have adorably looking light tassels.

Red river hog

Bushpigs (Potamochoerus larvatus) have the coolest and most diverse color morphs of all African wild pigs. Their coat color ranges from black / brown / gray to red and blondish and is accentuated by white applications at the face and towards the dorsal crest. They have also these cute ear tassels, usually in black. Although subspecies are identified, the color diversity is seen in single groups of these animals. The fur is quite long and looks shaggy, especially after a good rain. Bushpigs are the smallest of the four species and are found at our Eastern sites, like Restless Star and Green Snowflake. More towards central Africa – where they meet the red river hog home range – a zone of interbreeding between these two closely related species can occur.

The multi-colored bushpig

The warthog (Phacochoerus africanus) lives predominantly in arid savannah habitat like at our West African site Dry Lake. It is most easily distinguishable from the other hogs because of its unique body build. The warthog body is more barrel-shaped due to the lack of subcutaneous adipose tissue and the legs are longer. In addition, warthogs fancy a mane that reaches from the head down to the spine. Because of their long legs and a rather short neck, we often see them kneeling down to feed or drink.

A warthog dropped to its knees to feed.
A detailed field guide for hogs and other ungulates will be part of the new Chimp&See interface to be launched soon.

For everyone celebrating the Chinese New Year, all fans of hogs, and just everyone – we wish you a happy and successful 2019. Come over to Chimp&See to check out camera trap video footage from Africa’s wildlife!

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