Red river hog
|Red river hog|
The red river hog (Potamochoerus porcus), also known as the bush pig (but not to be confused with P. larvatus, common name "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.
Red river hogs eat grasses, berries, roots, insects, molluscs, small vertebrates and carrion, and are capable of causing damage to plantations. They typically live in herds of six to 20 members led by a dominant boar, with sows rearing three to six piglets at a time.
The red river hog has striking red fur, with black legs and a tufted white stripe along the spine and fantastic ear tufts. They have white face markings around the eyes and on the cheeks and jaws; the rest of the muzzle and face are a contrasting black. The fur on the jaw and the flanks is longer than on the body.
Adults weigh 45 to 115 kilograms (99 to 254 lb) and stand 55 to 80 centimetres (22 to 31 in) tall, with a length of 100 to 145 centimetres (39 to 57 in). The thin tail is 30 to 45 centimetres (12 to 18 in) long. The boar is somewhat larger than the sow. Males have recognisable humps or lumps on both sides of the snout and rather small, sharp tusks.
The species is omnivorous, eating mainly roots and tubers, and supplements its diet with fruit, grasses, herbs, eggs, dead animal and plant remains, insects, and lizards. It uses its large muzzle to root about in the soil in search of food, which can cause much damage to agricultural plantings.
Red river hogs are mostly nocturnal; by day, they hide in dense brush; after sunset, they roam in troops searching for food. They are good swimmers, but are unable to hold their breath for long. They live in small troops of approximately four to twenty animals, composed of a male (boar), some adult females (sows) and their piglets. The boar defends its harem aggressively against carnivores; the leopard being its most important enemy. Different troops may merge occasionally to form groups of up to sixty animals.
Distribution and habitat
The red river hog lives in rainforests, wet dense savannas, and forested valleys, and near rivers, lakes and marshes. The species' distribution ranges from the Congo area and Gambia to the eastern Congo, southwards to the Kasai and the Congo River. The exact delineation of its range versus that of P. larvatus is unclear; but in broad terms, the red river hog occupies western and central Africa, and the bushpig occupies eastern and southern Africa. Where the two meet, they are commonly held to interbreed, although some authorities dispute this.
Until very recently, the red river hog of western Africa was often considered an orange-colored bushpig. The pigs found in Madagascar are thought to be bushpigs, although some authorities assign the pigs on this island to two subspecies (larvatus and hova). Much confusion remains over the coloration of the two species; generally, the most southern specimens are drab colored; as one moves north and west, pig populations become more orange and mature males get blacker foreheads.
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- Querouil, S. & Leus, K. (2008). Potamochoerus porcus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 5 April 2009. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of least concern.
- Kingdon, J. (1997). The Kingdon Guide to African Mammals. Academic Press Limited, London. ISBN 0-12-408355-2