Red River hog

Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Suidae
Genus and Species: Potamochoerus porcus
  • small piglike animal with reddish fur, blackish face, long snout and short legs
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Red River hog

The most colorful member of the pig family, red river hogs are an adaptable species found across west and central Africa.

Physical Description

Red river hogs are the most colorful member of the pig family, getting their name from the red coat and tendency to often wallow in rivers and streams. Coloration and distinctive markings of this animal can vary quite a bit; those found in West Africa are predominantly red with a white stripe along their backs, while those found in the eastern and southern habitats can be red, brown or black, sometimes becoming darker with age. Many will also have a white facial mask. In male hogs, the elongated snout features two well-developed warts. These warts provide added protection from tusk damage during fights for dominance with other males. As in all wild pigs, the canine teeth extend to tusks. Red river hogs are quick on land, but will swim if they need to.

Size

Red river hogs are the smallest of the African pigs on average, growing to 40 to 50 inches (102 to 127 centimeters) in length and weighing 100 to 285 pounds (45 to 129 kilograms).

Native Habitat

Red river hogs have a wide, but somewhat patchy distribution, present primarily in rainforests and adjacent savanna. They can also be found in dry forests and cultivated areas not far from rainforests, preferring lots of brush to forage and hide in. A highly adaptable species, red river hogs have done well with increasing human encroachment, sometimes feeding on local crops, occasionally making them an agricultural pest.

Communication

They mark their territory, such as frequently used paths, using their tusks to scrape tree trunks, and using foot, neck and preorbital (near the eye) glands to mark scent. If territory is threatened, they may fight by butting heads, jabbing with snouts and whipping tails.

Food/Eating Habits

Red river hogs spend most of their adult life searching for food. Like most wild pigs, red river hogs use their snout to burrow for food, using both their sense of touch and smell. Red river hogs are not particular about what they eat; this omnivore will consume roots, fruit, seeds, crops, grasses, nuts, insects, bird eggs, snails, reptiles, carrion and domestic animals, among other food items. They have also been spotted following chimpanzees in search of dropped fruit, and will consume elephant dung in order to get to undigested seeds. Foraging normally occurs at night, although in the protection of a shaded forest can extend to morning and evening as well.

The Smithsonian's National Zoo's red river hogs eat herbivore pellets, hay, primate browse biscuits and a variety of produce including apples, corn and root vegetables.

Social Structure

This is a social species, and while adults of both sexes have been monitored living alone, most live in groups up to a dozen individuals. Some groups, however, can be as large as 20 individuals under one dominant male.

Reproduction and Development

Breeding season for red river hogs normally occurs from September to April, peaking from November to February during the wet season. The sow creates a nest made of grass where she can give birth to and care for her young. Gestation for red river hogs can last between 120 to 130 days, with number of young ranging from three to six. Young will weigh around 27 ounces (737 grams) when born, and both mother and father will help care for and protect young. When young leave the nest, the dominant male will watch over and protect the piglets. Red river hogs reach sexual maturity around age three.

Sleep Habits

Most active at dusk and at night, red river hogs spend their days in burrows among dense vegetation.

Lifespan

In the wild, red river hogs can live an estimated 15 to 20 years. In human care, they normally live up to 20 years.

Red river hogs are quite common throughout their natural habitat, and have proven to withstand habitat change well. In fact, they have benefited from a decrease in natural predators because of the aforementioned habitat change. Humans are currently the greatest threat to red river hogs; this is one of the most hunted species in their native central Africa. Restrictions on hunting would help ensure the continued success of red river hogs throughout Africa. For now, they are present in many protected areas throughout their natural range.

Three red river hogs—a male named Roscoe and two females named Bobbie and Tangerine—live at the Cheetah Conservation Station. They share an exhibit with a male sitatunga.