Last updated
"Bush pig" may also refer to the red river hog.

Southern Bush Pig.jpg
Southern bushpig (P. larvatus koiropotamus) at the San Diego Zoo
Scientific classification OOjs UI icon edit-ltr.svg
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Suidae
Genus: Potamochoerus
P. larvatus
Binomial name
Potamochoerus larvatus
(F. Cuvier, 1822)
Potamochoerus larvatus map.svg

The bushpig (Potamochoerus larvatus) is a member of the pig family that inhabits forests, woodland, riverine vegetation and cultivated areas in East and Southern Africa. Probably introduced populations are also present in Madagascar. There have also been unverified reports of their presence on the Comoro island of Mayotte. Bushpigs are mainly nocturnal. There are several subspecies.


The vernacular name 'bushpig' may be used for either Potamochoerus species. [2] [3]


close-up Bushpig (Potamochoerus larvatus) big sow close-up ... (32261030376).jpg

Adult bushpigs stand from 66 to 100 cm (26 to 39 in) at the shoulder, [4] and mature boars can reach a weight of 150 kg (330 lb), although 60 to 80 kg (130 to 180 lb) is more common. [4] [5] Sows are 45 to 70 kg (99 to 154 lb). [5] They resemble the domestic pig, and can be identified by their pointed, tufted ears and face mask.

Bushpigs vary in hair colour and skin colour over their range, southern koiropotamus and nyasae populations are dark reddish, sometimes almost black. The coat colour darkens with age. Their heads have a 'face mask' with a contrasting pattern of blackish to dark brown and white to dark grey markings, or may sometimes be completely whitish. The ears have tassels of long hairs. Their very sharp tusks are fairly short and inconspicuous. Unlike warthogs, bushpigs run with their long and thin tails down. [6]

Males are normally larger than females. Old males develop two warts on their snout. Piglets are born with pale yellowish longitudinal stripes on a dark brown background; these soon disappear and the coat becomes reddish brown, with a black and white dorsal crest in both sexes. [6] This mane bristles when the animal becomes agitated.


Distributed over a wide range, the bushpig occurs from Ethiopia and Somalia in the north to southeastern DR Congo and southwards through the Cape and KwaZulu-Natal Provinces, South Africa, where it is largely known from the areas around Johannesburg and all along the country's southern coast. [4] It is also known to inhabit Botswana, Eswatini, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. [7] The bushpig also occurs on Madagascar, and possibly other islands in the Comoros archipelago. [8] [9] It is not known how the species reached these locations, though it was likely transported there by humans, possibly after a brief period of domestication. [8] Numerous hybrids with domesticated breeds of pig have also been reported. [5] [10]

The bushpig appears to have increased its range in Botswana during the late 1970s or early 1980s. In 1993, it was speculated that the northern range of the species had shrunk due to sahelisation. It is uncommon in Burundi. [10]


For most of 20th century bushpigs were seen as a single species, Potamochoerus porcus, by almost all authors. In 1993 Peter Grubb, writing for the IUCN, split both the bushpig and the warthog into different species, and recognised numerous subspecies of all African hogs. The bushpig subspecies from West Africa (porcus), with more reddish hair, was seen as an independent species by him. Other authors have since continued to follow his interpretation of the bushpig. Because bushpigs had first been described from West Africa, this western taxon retained the name P. porcus, whereas all the other bushpig subspecies needed a new name. Bushpigs from the island of Madagascar had been described as a new species in 1822 by Frédéric Cuvier, P. larvatus, but were reduced to a subspecies of the bushpig when it was realised they were the same as those of mainland Africa. As Cuvier's publication had the oldest available name for the animals, this became the new Latin name for the other bushpig subspecies. [2] [9] [10]

P. larvatus is very closely related to P. porcus, the bushpig from West Africa also known as 'red river hog', with which it can interbreed, [11] although others dispute this. [5] It is distinguished from the western pig by having a less reddish hair colour and the hair being coarser, longer and less dense. [6] Some pig populations in Uganda display physical characteristics intermediate between the two species. [11] P. porcus may sometimes aggregate in larger sounders than P. larvatus. [10]

In the zone between the western forms and the other bushpigs, i.e. in DR Congo and South Sudan, it remained unclear which populations belonged to which species in 1993, [10] although the IUCN now assigns them to this species. [1]

Subspecies recognised in 1970 were: [6]

Grubb recognised four subspecies in 1993: [10] [2]

If the Madagascar form is a feral introduction from East Africa, the East African subspecies needs to be renamed to larvatus. Nothing was known about the Somalian populations in 1993, which was why it was not recognised. [10]

Subspecies recognised in 2005 were: [9]


Two bushpigs together with helmeted guineafowl at Mapungubwe National Park in Limpopo Province, South Africa African bush pigs, Mapungubwe National Park (35884241784).jpg
Two bushpigs together with helmeted guineafowl at Mapungubwe National Park in Limpopo Province, South Africa

The main habitat requirement is dense cover, bushpigs avoid open forests or savannas. [10] Bushpigs can be found in forests with high trees, montane forests, forest fringes, thick bushveld, gallery forests, flooded forest, swampland or cultivated areas as habitat. [6] [10] It occurs up to 4,000 metres in altitude on Mount Kilimanjaro. [10]

Bushpigs are quite social animals and are found in sounders of up to twelve members, usually three to five. A typical group will consist of a dominant male and a dominant female, with other females and juveniles accounting for the rest. Groups engage in ritual aggressive behaviour when encountering each other, but will actually fight for large food sources. Sounders have home ranges, but are not territorial and different home ranges overlap. Groups generally keep away from each other. All intruders near the sounder are attacked, also non-bushpigs. Home ranges are 400 to 1,000 hectares, in Knysna (a forest region) the average was 720 hectare. Almost half the population consists of solitary wandering animals. Small bachelor groups of young males also form, these have ranges which overlay those of a few. The young males will avoid the sounders to escape confrontation. Litters of one to nine, usually three, young are born. From mating to the end of the gestation is a period of eight to ten months. After six months of age the alpha sows will aggressively chase the young males off, she will do the same to a few one to two year old beta sows. Young males are socially mature at 30 months of age. Mating mostly occurs in late autumn to early winter. Farrowing may occur at any time of the year but there is a pronounced peak in the warmest part of the summer (from October to February in South Africa). [5]

The alpha sow builds a nest three metre wide and one metre high during the winter, with bedding consisting of stacked hay, twigs or plant debris from floods, to keep the litter of piglets for approximately four months while they wean. The males are the main care-givers, the sows only visit the nest to wean the piglets. Sows have six teats. [5]

They snort and grunt harshly while foraging or alarmed. [6]

The pigs are essentially nocturnal, hiding in very dense thickets during the day. They never hide in aardvark burrows. Leopards are their main predator, combatting leopards has increased bushpig numbers. [6]

Diet and relation to humans

Bushpigs are very aggressive and extremely powerful. In one case a game scout was forced to spend three days in a tree avoiding a stalking bushpig. Wounded bushpig are very dangerous; their spoor should not be followed alone. [5] They are fast, and can swim well. [6]

Bushpig will range up to 4 km from their hide in a night to feed. [5] A 1990 study in the Cape found an average daily movements of 3 km, with an amplitude of 0.7 to 5.8 km. [10] They are omnivorous and their diet can include roots, crops, succulent plants, water sedges, rotten wood, insects, small reptiles, eggs, nestlings and carrion. [5] [6] Tubers, bulbs and fruit are the most important food. [6] Eggs and nestlings are also a favorite. Both fresh and very rotten carrion is eaten. Small young antelope are stalked and consumed. [5] A behaviour observed in Uganda is to follow a troop of monkeys or baboons in the trees above to feed on the falling fruit and peels. [11] During droughts high mortalities have occurred in South Africa. [5] [10] In South Africa, 40% of the diet was tubers and other underground plant parts, 30% was herbage, 13% fruit, 9% animal matter and 8% fungi. [10]

It is known for destructive grubbing, uprooting shrubs and scattering them around, unearthing all root crops, feeding on only a few, and trampling the rest. [5] [6] Favourite crops are pô-pô, sugarcane, bananas and maize. It cuts down such taller plants at their base to reach the fruit. Other favourite agricultural crops are beans, peas, groundnuts, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, potatoes, carrots, pineapple, spanspek, watermelon, nuts, alfalfa, and green pasture. Chicken pens are often destroyed and raided. There are also a few incidents of bushpig breaking into domestic pig paddocks to kill and eat both the sows and the young piglets. [5]

They are a significant nuisance animal in the agricultural regions, and are hunted fairly extensively. However, the population of bushpigs in many farming areas is stable or growing despite the hunting efforts, due to largely inaccessible terrain, abundance of food, lack of predators, relatively high reproductive potential, and their rapid ability to adapt to hunting methods. [5] [6] [10] [12] At camping sites they can also become a nuisance, learning to raid the tents. [5] In Islamic parts of East Africa and parts of Madagascar, it is a further nuisance because, as it is a pig, it is not permitted to be eaten, [8] [10] although in some areas 'red' bushpig meat is not considered haram like 'white' pig meat. Some Zambian ethnicities also avoid bushpig meat, believing it harbours diseases such epilepsy. [10] Its meat is considered a delicacy in South Africa; prices have fluctuated widely between 1995 and 2005. [5] Throughout Africa, it is almost exclusively sold in local markets, although meat sometimes turns up in the larger towns or cities. It is often the main money maker for hunters in Gabon, constituting up to 80% of the total income. Hunters generally consume only about a third themselves, the rest is sold as bushmeat. [10] In northern Zambian National Parks, it is sometimes a main target of poaching for bushmeat. [13] It is leaner than pork.

Eradicating or controlling their numbers on the farm is quite difficult. They quickly learn to stay away from hunters, and will flee even when the hunter is still 200 metres away in thick bushveld. The best way to shoot one is to hide at one of its game trails towards a food source (called a 'restaurant') in the evening. Trapping also does not work easily, as bushpigs are wary of new and unfamiliar objects in their territories, and will avoid a trap for several months. They are also suspicious of unfamiliar objects such as cigarette butts on their trails or broken branches or scuff-marks in the soil, and will avoid the area when they find them. Using packs of specially trained dogs to hunt is more efficient, but dogs may be killed by the boars if they are not careful. Another way of killing the pigs is to make a large and very sturdy boma with a closing mechanism and regularly stock it with feed for a period of two or three months, before engaging the mechanism with a whole sounder or more inside. Setting this up must be done carefully by the same person alone in the same shoes, so as not to arouse the hogs' suspicion. [5]

In Southern Africa governments organise periodic culls to reduce bushpig numbers. [12] The governments of Malawi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (in the 1940s) also have. In Madagascar this might also be necessary to protect other native species. Such cullings have generally been unsuccessful. [10]


The IUCN first assessed the bushpig as 'not threatened' in 1993, [10] and 'lower risk' in 1996. [1] It was assessed as 'least concern' in their Red List in 2008, [12] the 2015 assessment is identical to the 2008 one. [1]

There is no international trade in the species, save for a very small handful that have been exported to zoos. Populations are found in numerous well-protected areas throughout its range. [10]

Related Research Articles

<i>Sus</i> (genus) Genus of even-toed ungulates

Sus is the genus of wild and domestic pigs, within the even-toed ungulate family Suidae. Sus include domestic pigs and their ancestor, the common Eurasian wild boar, along with other species. Sus species, like all suids, are native to the Eurasian and African continents, ranging from Europe to the Pacific islands. Suids other than the pig are the babirusa of Indonesia, the pygmy hog of South Asia, the warthogs of Africa, and other pig genera from Africa. The suids are a sister clade to peccaries.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wild boar</span> Species of mammal

The wild boar, also known as the wild swine, common wild pig, Eurasian wild pig, or simply wild pig, is a suid native to much of Eurasia and North Africa, and has been introduced to the Americas and Oceania. The species is now one of the widest-ranging mammals in the world, as well as the most widespread suiform. It has been assessed as least concern on the IUCN Red List due to its wide range, high numbers, and adaptability to a diversity of habitats. It has become an invasive species in part of its introduced range. Wild boars probably originated in Southeast Asia during the Early Pleistocene and outcompeted other suid species as they spread throughout the Old World.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Intensive pig farming</span> Method of animal husbandry

Intensive pig farming, also known as pig factory farming, is the primary method of pig production, in which grower pigs are housed indoors in group-housing or straw-lined sheds, whilst pregnant sows are housed in gestation crates or pens and give birth in farrowing crates.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Common warthog</span> Wild member of the pig family

The common warthog is a wild member of the pig family (Suidae) found in grassland, savanna, and woodland in sub-Saharan Africa. In the past, it was commonly treated as a subspecies of P. aethiopicus, but today that scientific name is restricted to the desert warthog of northern Kenya, Somalia, and eastern Ethiopia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Suidae</span> Family of mammals belonging to even-toed ungulates

Suidae is a family of artiodactyl mammals which are commonly called pigs, hogs, or swine. In addition to numerous fossil species, 18 extant species are currently recognized, classified into between four and eight genera. Within this family, the genus Sus includes the domestic pig, Sus scrofa domesticus or Sus domesticus, and many species of wild pig from Europe to the Pacific. Other genera include babirusas and warthogs. All suids, or swine, are native to the Old World, ranging from Asia to Europe and Africa.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Feral pig</span> Any type of feral domesticated pig, wild boar, or hybrid

A feral pig is a domestic pig which has gone feral, meaning it lives in the wild. The term feral pig has also been applied to wild boars, which can interbreed with domestic pigs. They are found mostly in the Americas and Australia. Razorback and wild hog are Americanisms applied to feral pigs or boar–pig hybrids.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Olive bee-eater</span> Species of bird

The olive bee-eater or Madagascar bee-eater is a near passerine bee-eater species in the genus Merops. It is native to the southern half of Africa where it is present in Angola; Botswana; Burundi; Comoros; Democratic Republic of the Congo; Djibouti; Eritrea; Ethiopia; Kenya; Madagascar; Malawi; Mayotte; Mozambique; Namibia; Rwanda; Somalia; South Sudan; Sudan; Tanzania; Uganda; Zambia; Zimbabwe. It is a common species with a wide range so the International Union for Conservation of Nature has rated their conservation status as "least concern".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Red river hog</span> Species of pig

The red river hog or bushpig is a wild member of the pig family living in Africa, with most of its distribution in the Guinean and Congolian forests. It is rarely seen away from rainforests, and generally prefers areas near rivers or swamps.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pig</span> Domesticated omnivorous even-toed ungulate

The pig, also called swine or hog, is an omnivorous, domesticated, even-toed, hoofed mammal. It is named the domestic pig when distinguishing it from other members of the genus Sus. It is considered a subspecies of Sus scrofa by some authorities, but as a distinct species by others. Pigs were domesticated in the Neolithic, both in East Asia and in the Near East. When domesticated pigs arrived in Europe, they extensively interbred with wild boar but retained their domesticated features.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pygmy hog</span> Species of mammal

The pygmy hog is a very small and endangered species of pig and the only species in the genus Porcula. Endemic to India, the pygmy hog is a suid native of the alluvial grasslands in the foothills of the Himalayas, at elevations of up to 300 m (980 ft). Populations of pygmy hogs were once widespread in the tall, dense, wet grasslands in a narrow belt of the southern Himalayan foothills from north-western Uttar Pradesh to Assam, through southern Nepal and North Bengal, and possibly extending into contiguous habitats in southern Bhutan. Due to human encroachment and destruction of the pygmy hogs’ natural habitat, the species was thought to have gone extinct in the early 1960s. However, in 1971, a small pygmy hog population was rediscovered as they were fleeing a fire near the Barnadi Wildlife Sanctuary in Assam. Today, the only known population of pygmy hogs resides in Manas National Park in Assam, India. The population is threatened by livestock grazing, fires and poaching. With an estimated population of less than 250 mature individuals, the pygmy hog is listed as an Endangered species on the IUCN Red List, and conservation efforts such as captive breeding and re-release programs are currently being employed.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Giant forest hog</span> Species of mammal

The giant forest hog, the only member of its genus (Hylochoerus), is native to wooded habitats in Africa and is one of the largest wild members of the pig family, Suidae, along with a few subspecies of the wild boar. It was first described in 1904. The specific name honours Richard Meinertzhagen, who shot the type specimen in Kenya and had it shipped to the Natural History Museum in England.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Philippine warty pig</span> Species of mammal

The Philippine warty pig is one of four known species in the pig genus (Sus) endemic to the Philippines. They have tufts of hair on the top of their head and on the lower sides of their jaws, as well as four warts on their faces. Their skulls are elongated; males have tusks and bigger skulls than females, an example of sexual dimorphism. They are considered Vulnerable by the IUCN, and their population is currently declining due to multiple threats. The pigs are probably nocturnal.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Desert warthog</span> Species of mammal

The desert warthog is a species of even-toed ungulate in the pig family (Suidae), found in northern Kenya and Somalia, and possibly Djibouti, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. This is the range of the extant subspecies, commonly known as the Somali warthog. Another subspecies, commonly known as the Cape warthog, became extinct around 1865, but formerly occurred in South Africa.

<i>Potamochoerus</i> Genus of mammals

Potamochoerus is a genus in the pig family (Suidae). The two species are restricted to sub-Saharan Africa, although the bushpig, possibly due to introduction by humans, also occurs in Madagascar and nearby islands. Early in the 20th century, there were considered to be as many as five different species within the genus. These were gradually consolidated, until, in the 1970s, it was generally agreed that all were representatives of just a single species. The bushpig was again recognised as a separate species from about 1993.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pig farming</span> Raising and breeding of domestic pigs

Pig farming, pork farming, or hog farming is the raising and breeding of domestic pigs as livestock, and is a branch of animal husbandry. Pigs are farmed principally for food and skins.

Ambohijanahary Special Reserve is a wildlife reserve in the regions of Menabe and Melaky in Madagascar. The reserve was created in 1958 to protect the sclerophyllous forest between Tsiroanomandidy and Maintirano, as well as protecting the many endemic species of plants and animals.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Buru babirusa</span> Species of mammal

The Buru babirusa is a wild pig-like animal native to the Indonesian islands of Buru, the two Sula Islands of Mangole and Taliabu. It is also known as the Moluccan babirusa, golden babirusa or hairy babirusa. Traditionally, this relatively small species included the other babirusas as subspecies, but it has been recommended treating them as separate species based on differences in their morphology. As also suggested by its alternative common names, the Buru babirusa has relatively long thick, gold-brown body-hair – a feature not shared by the other extant babirusas.

<i>Miniopterus griveaudi</i> Bat in the family Miniopteridae from the Comoros and Madagascar

Miniopterus griveaudi is a bat in the genus Miniopterus found on Grande Comore and Anjouan in the Comoros and in northern and western Madagascar. First described in 1959 from Grande Comore as a subspecies of the mainland African M. minor, it was later placed with the Malagasy M. manavi. However, morphological and molecular studies published in 2008 and 2009 indicated that M. manavi as then defined contained five distinct, unrelated species, and M. griveaudi was redefined as a species occurring on both Madagascar and the Comoros.

The Njesi Highlands are a range of mountains in northern Mozambique.


  1. 1 2 3 4 Seydack., A. H. W. (18 December 2015). "Potamochoerus larvatus". Red List . IUCN . Retrieved 17 April 2021.
  2. 1 2 3 Grubb, Peter (1993). "The Afrotropical suids Phacochoerus, Hylochoerus, and Potamochoerus: taxonomy and description". In Oliver, William L. R. (ed.). Pigs, Peccaries and Hippos. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan (PDF). Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. pp. 66–69. ISBN   2-8317-0141-4.
  3. "Red River Hog hunting". Book Your Hunt. 2021. Retrieved 17 April 2021.
  4. 1 2 3 Kingdon, J. (1997). The Kingdon Guide to African Mammals. Academic Press Limited, London. ISBN   0-12-408355-2
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 Furstenburg, Deon (2011). "Focus on the bushpig (Potamochoerus larvatus)". South African Hunter. 07054: 52–55. Retrieved 16 April 2021.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Dorst, Jean; Dandelot, Pierre (1970). A field guide to the larger mammals of Africa (2 ed.). London: Collins. pp. 178, 179. ISBN   0002192942.
  7. "Observations • iNaturalist".
  8. 1 2 3 Simoons, F. J. (1953). "Notes on the bush-pig (Potamochoerus)". Uganda Journal. 17: 80–81.
  9. 1 2 3 Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M., eds. (2005). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN   978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC   62265494.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 Vercammen, Paul; Seydack, Armin H. W.; Oliver, William L. R. (1993). "The Bush Pigs (Potamochoerus porcus and P. larvatus)". In Oliver, W. L. R. (ed.). Pigs, Peccaries and Hippos. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan (PDF). Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. pp. 93–101. ISBN   2-8317-0141-4.
  11. 1 2 3 Ghiglieri, M.P.; et al. (December 1982). "Bush pig (Potamochoerus porcus) polychromatism and ecology in Kibale Forest, Uganda". African Journal of Ecology. 20 (4): 231–236. Bibcode:1982AfJEc..20..231G. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2028.1982.tb00298.x.
  12. 1 2 3 Seydack. A. (30 June 2008). "Potamochoerus larvatus". Red List . IUCN . Retrieved 5 April 2009.
  13. Kasanka Trust Annual Report 2017 (PDF) (Report). Kasanka Trust Ltd. 2017. pp. 1–48. Retrieved 16 April 2021.