Class: Mammalia (Mammal)
Length: largest—wild boar Sus scrofa up to 6.6 feet (200 centimeters) long; smallest—pygmy hog Sus salvanius as little as 1.8 feet (55 centimeters) long
Shoulder height: wild boar up to 43 inches (110 centimeters); pygmy hog up to 12 inches (30 centimeters)
Weight: wild boar up to 710 pounds (320 kilograms); pygmy hog no more than 25 pounds (11 kilograms)
Life span: 7 to 21 years, depending on species
Gestation: 100 to 130 days, depending on species
Number of young at birth: 2 to 9, depending on species; rarely 1
Weight at birth: 18 to 32 ounces (500 to 900 grams), depending on species
Age at maturity: 1 to 3 years, depending on species
Conservation Status: Visayan warty pig Sus cebifrons and pygmy hog at critical risk; Javan warty pig Sus verrucosus is endangered.
• Racing Stripes: Piglets (baby pigs) look like brown striped watermelons
with legs, and at a young age are capable of great bursts of speed!
• Bearded pigs Sus barbatus are champion jumpers and can leap over barriers 7 feet (2.1 meters) high!
• Wild pigs found now in the Americas and Australia are feral descendants of domesticated pigs.
• Wild boars have been around for a long time. The earliest known representation of a pig is a painting of a leaping boar on the wall of a cave in Spain, estimated to be about 40,000 years old.
• Swine is a plural noun meaning "pigs."
• Only domestic pigs have the familiar curly tail; wild pigs have straight tails.
• The San Diego Zoo one of just a few zoos to house Visayan warty pigs outside of their native land, the Phillippines.
• Blog posts:
- New Additions: Monkeys, Otters, Pigs
- Patience: A Porcine Virtue?
- New Animals: Pigs!
- Fleeting Youth
- Hogs, Okapis, Hippos, and More!
Listen to a wild swine!
Bytes: Wild Swine (Pigs,
Mighty fine swine
Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but there's more to wild swine (also known as pigs, hogs, and boars) than meets the eye! From the petite pygmy hog Sus salvanius to the immense wild boar Sus scrofa, swine are fascinating animals. While each species has its own distinctive look, behavior, and region, they share many traits: strength, resourcefulness, and intelligence. All swine have that familiar piggy look: small eyes, expressive ears, and a squared-off snout for digging. They also have excellent senses of smell and hearing and communicate with one another using a variety of grunts, squeaks, and chirrups.
Eat like a pig
Pigs, hogs, and boars are all omnivores. Their varied diet can include small reptiles, mammals, and carrion along with grasses, water plants, and fruit. They use that tough snout to root in the soil for food items such as leaves, roots, bulbs, insects, and earthworms. Because of this behavior, wild swine have become infamous for rooting through and destroying large portions of farmer's crops. At the San Diego Zoo and the Safari Park our pigs are offered omnivore pellets and vegetables.
Socializing in sounders
Wild pigs are generally social, living in close-knit groups called sounders. The home ranges of sounders often overlap, with shared feeding grounds, water holes, mud wallows, resting sites, and sleeping dens. Ranges can vary in size, depending on the species: from about 60 acres (24 hectares) for pygmy hogs and up to 7 square miles (18 square hectares) for wild boars.
Piglets (baby pigs) remain hidden in a grass nest dug by the sow (mother) for their first 10 days before venturing out. Sows and piglets move together as a unit until about three months of age. Then the piglets are old enough to rejoin the sounder, which includes other sows, piglets, and young adults. They will remain close to their mother for one to three years, depending on the species, until they're mature. Young boars (males) may form bachelor herds until they're old enough to mate, at about four years of age. Adult boars are generally solitary, but sows stay with the sounder unless they are rearing young. Sounders can be made up of many generations.
Turning the tables
While humans hunt swine for food, natural predators include large cats, hyenas, and even pythons. The pigs' primary defense is their speed, but when cornered, they can behave quite fiercely. Their lower tusks, which can get to be about 3 inches (7 centimeters) long, are razor sharp, and make excellent weapons!
To beard or not to beard...
This is never a question for bearded pigs Sus barbatus. These large, tropical pigs are named for the coarse, bristly hair growing out of the top of their snout. Both males and females have these "beards," but those on the male are thicker and more luxurious. Bearded pigs can travel in groups of up to 300 individuals, migrating and sometimes completely disappearing from an area, only to reappear a few months later. Boars usually travel by themselves and do not join in these migrations.
Like all pigs, bearded pigs will "root," or dig, with their snouts for food. They are so strong that a family of bearded pigs can dig a hole this way through dirt so hard packed that humans must use jackhammers to break through it! Because their habitat is disappearing due to logging, bearded pigs are considered pests as they move onto farmland in search of food. Humans have also hunted bearded pigs for food for more than 40,000 years.
Mysterious but charming
Visayan warty pigs Sus cebifrons are found on only two islands in the Philippines. Living on a small island can be difficult for animals: they cannot leave to escape predators, food shortages, or hunters. Fortunately, they do well in zoos, and the San Diego Zoo is working with other zoos to increase warty pig numbers.
Not much is known about Visayan warty pigs in the wild, but keepers describe the pigs at our Zoo as playful and friendly. The boars have three pairs of fleshy "warts," or bumps, on their faces. Biologists think that these warts help protect the warty pig from the tusks of a rival during a fight. The boars also grow stiff, spiky "hairdos" as mating season approaches.
Humans have long regarded the wild boar as a symbol of strength, boldness, and ferocity. Wild boars are among the most widely distributed mammals on Earth, ranging from Britain across Europe, through the Middle East and India, across Asia and its many islands to Japan, and most of North Africa, too. They are generally crepuscular or nocturnal, resting during the day in hollows they make in stands of tall grass. Wild boars fight by slashing at each other's shoulders, which have thickened skin and matted hair for protection. Because of the way they fight, they don’t need facial warts.
The wild boar is the ancestor of the domestic pig Sus domesticus found on farms. Humans began domesticating wild boars in Europe, India, China, and Malaysia about 7,000 years ago. Domestic pigs often get much larger than their wild counterparts: a few have weighed more than 1,000 pounds (450 kilograms)!
Pygmy hogs are the smallest of all wild pigs. They live in India, in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains, making their home in tall savanna grasslands. Their blackish brown coats provide excellent camouflage. Little is known about these rare animals, and by the 1960s they were thought to be extinct because of hunting and loss of habitat. Then, a small number of the tiny pigs were discovered in 1971—good news for pig lovers everywhere! Since their habitat continues to shrink, pygmy hogs are still at critical risk of extinction.
A pig of a different color
The red river hog Potamochoerus porcus is found in Africa. It is named for its reddish brown fur, and the fact that it often wades through water. ( Red river hogs don't live in a red river!) These pigs are active both day and night and are good swimmers, holding their tails above the water. They can also swim underwater, catching a breath every 15 seconds or so. The hogs are hunted in their native habitat by leopards. It's interesting to note that while many pigs are becoming scarce as a result of people moving into their habitat, these changes actually help the red river hogs. As farming spreads, it provides good grazing for the hogs and lessens the leopard population.
A hog haven for pigs
The San Diego Zoo is dedicated to helping the pig species of the world! For example, since the early 1990s, the Zoo has funded Visayan warty pig conservation efforts in their native homeland. As the first zoo outside of the Philippines to breed them, San Diego will ultimately loan some of the offspring to other zoos to generate additional funds for warty pig conservation.
Chances are that when you heard the word "pig" in the past, you pictured the pink, domestic barnyard variety. Perhaps now you'll think of the wonderful variety of swine in the world, ready to root in the dirt or battle an opponent. There's just no such thing as a plain pig!