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Potamochoerus larvatus

ssp. hassama (eastern Africa), somaliensis (north-eastern Africa) and koiropotamus (central & southern Africa)

Status: Least Concern

Did you know? Contrary to other wild pigs, adult male bushpigs play an active role in rearing and defending the young.

Bushpig - Nik Borrow.jpg

Subspecies and distribution

  • P. l. hassama Heuglin, 1863 – E Africa, with specimens known from Ethiopia, S Sudan, E Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania.

  • P. l. somaliensis de Beaux, 1924 – Tana, Juba, and Scebeli Rivers in NE Kenya and Somalia.

  • P. l. koiropotamus Desmoulins, 1831 – lower Congo River (left bank), Angola, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Botswana, Swaziland, the Caprivi Region in Namibia, and South Africa.

Isolated populations of Bushpig occur in Angola and South Africa. The species is also present in Madagascar (see photo below) and the Comoro Islands, but their taxonomic situation there is still unresolved. The species is thought to have been introduced in historic times, but mainland and island populations can be distinguished morphologically, and there is additional distinction between two Malagasy morphs: P. l. larvatus in Mayotte and NW Madagascar and P. l. hova in the east. This may suggest that the species was not introduced by people, or was introduced at different times from different source populations. Until this issue is clarified, the Madagascar races are not officially recognized as subspecies.

Descriptive notes

Head-body 100–150 cm, tail 30–40 cm, weight 50–115 kg. Bushpigs have a compact body with short legs, rounded back and elongated snout. The coat is extremely variable in color, from blond, pale red, or russet up to a dark brown or near-black shade. Color may vary with sex, age, region or individual, and this significant variation in body color has led to the description of many variant races. It generally has a paler head with white face markings. Body hairs are long and sparse but elongated between the forehead and the tail, forming a white or greyish dorsal crest. It has a long tufted tail. Newborns are dark brown in color with longitudinal stripes or rows of lighter spots. Adult males display bony ridges and calluses on the muzzle. Females have six pairs of mammae. There are clear distinctions between subspecies based e.g. on color and average male skull length, but there are also indications that intergradation may locally occur between subspecies. Dental formula: I 3/3, C 1/1, P 4/3, M 3/3 = 42. Upper tusk is very small (average 7·6 cm), but lower tusks sizeable (9–16·5 cm) and razor sharp. Chromosomes: 2n = 34. Life span: 20 years.


The Bushpig is ecologically separated from the Red River Hog: within areas of co-occurrence (like the Albertine Rift), P. larvatus live at higher altitude and P. porcus in lowland forests. Elsewhere, the two species are separated by ecological barriers such as the Congo River. Bushpigs occur in a wide range of forested and woodland habitats, from sea level to montane forest (up to 4000 m on Mt Kilimanjaro), with a marked preference for valley bottoms with soft soils and dense vegetation. There are striking differences in habitat among subspecies with, for example the hassama race primarily occurring in upland forest areas and the somaliensis race favoring riverine forests.


This species is omnivorous and highly adaptable. It is probably a major seed disperser. Bushpigs consume roots, tubers, bulbs, corn, fungi, fruit, eggs, invertebrates, birds, small mammals, and carrions. In Uganda, Bushpigs were seen following groups of monkeys as they forage and feed on discarded fruits. They make extensive use of their snout to root for larvae, worms and underground plant parts. Locally, Bushpig rooting can leave large areas plowed up and cleared of standing vegetation. In cultivated areas, sounders can do serious damage to crops in a short time.

Activity patterns

Bushpigs are predominantly nocturnal, resting under heavy thickets of vegetation during the day. Nest for raising young or during rainy seasons are built in the cooler parts of their range. In the southern Cape, South Africa, they tend to be more diurnal during the colder months, suggesting that temperature regulation is a significant factor influencing the rhythm of activity. Mud wallowing and rubbing against trees are also regular activities. Population density is regulated by a wide range of predators including man, lion, leopard, spotted hyena, python and eagles. Courageous and dangerous when cornered; family boars and sows defend piglets cooperatively and aggressively. Fighting behaviour includes frontal and lateral postures with dorsal crest erected, snout-boxing and forehead shoving. Bushpigs run fast and swim easily. Sense of smell and hearing are very good, but eyesight only fair.

Movements, home range and social organisation

In South Africa, groups occupy spatially exclusive home ranges of 3 to 10 km² with daily movements of 0·5 to 6 km. Population densities vary from 0·3 to 10·1 animals per km². They live in family sounders of 6 to 12, led by a dominant male, with one or more females and their young. Contrary to other wild pigs, adult males play an active role in rearing and defending the young. Other males are aggressively chased off and territorial encounters are characterized by ritualized displays and scent marking. Males disperse from the natal group and old males may be solitary, whereas females remain on their natal home range.


Sexual maturity is reached at 18–21 months. Breeding may take place year-round, but most young are recorded at the end of the dry season or beginning of the wet season. Gestation period: 120–127 days. Just before giving birth, females retire to a sheltered nest or hollow. Average litter: 3–4, with a maximum of 10. Newborns weigh 700–800 g. Weaning at 2–4 months.

Status and conservation

Not listed on CITES Appendices. Bushpigs are classified as Least Concern on The IUCN Red List as the species is relatively widespread, common, and there are no major threats believed to be resulting in a significant population decline. Though the bush pig is still relatively widespread, its distribution is patchy in certain regions. Reported to be increasingly rare outside of protected areas, and widely hunted either for subsistence or for commercial bushmeat trade at local, mostly urban markets. Also hunted as agricultural pest, or because it is a vector of livestock diseases like African swine fever, as well as nagana epidemic and sleeping sickness. Clearing of forested areas and conversion to cropland have benefited this species in some areas.


Text adapted from: Meijaard, E., J. P. d'Huart, and W. L. R. Oliver. 2011. Family Suidae (Pigs). Pages 248-291 in D. E. Wilson, and R. A. Mittermeier, editors. Handbook of the Mammals of the World. Vol 2. Hoofed Mammals. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

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Melton, D.A., Cooper, S.M. & Whittington, A.E.  (1989).  The diet of bushpigs in a sugar-cane agroecosystem.  South African Journal of Wildlife Research 19: 48-51.

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Seydack, A.H.W.  (2008).  Potamochoerus larvatus.  In: IUCN 2009. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.2. Downloaded on 08 March 2010.

Seydack, A.H.W. (2013). Potamochoerus larvatus Bushpig; pp 32-36. in: Kingdon, J. & Hoffmann, M. (eds) 2013. Mammals of Africa: Volume VI. Pigs, Hippopotamuses, Chevrotain, Giraffes, Deer and Bovids. Bloomsbury Publishing, London.

Skinner, J.D., Breytenbach, G.J. & Maberly, C.T.A.  (1976).  Observations on the ecology and biology of the bushpig Potamochoerus porcus Linn. in the Northern Transvaal.  South African Journal of Wildlife Research 6: 123-128.

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