Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Red River Hog

 Red river hogs don’t actually live in a red river like their name suggests, although they are particular to moist areas and areas that are close to bodies of water. Red river hogs actually get their name because of their distinctive reddish brown fur. The red river hog’s scientific name is Potamochoerus porcus, but they are commonly known as “bush pigs.” These bush pigs are considered even toed ungulates, so they are part of the vertebrate order artiodactyla. Since they are so particular to water, they are considerably good swimmers that can swim both above and below the water. Red river hogs are native to Africa and can live up to fifteen years in the wild.

Range and Habitat
Red river hogs are widely distributed through both the West and Central African rainforest belt, from Senegal in the west throughout the Guinea-Congo forest and to the west of the Albertine Rift. (1) They are typically found in rain forests, gallery forests, and moist savanna wetlands. They also inhabit thickets and swamps. The hogs prefer areas near slow waterways and where dense vegetation occurs. (4) They will also congregate around human villages. Although they prefer moist areas, the habitat varies. Red river hogs are highly adaptable and can benefit from the opening of former forested areas by creating secondary habitats, provision of cultivated foods, and the reductions in numbers of their predators. (3)

Physical Description
On average the red river hog is the smallest of the wild African pigs. It is easily recognizable by its bright red wiry fur, which gives it its name. It has a stocky body with strong shoulders and a large, wedged shape head used to uproot tough vegetation. They have long pointed ears with white tufts and there is a distinctive white ring around each eye. Researchers actually believe that the ears are used in territorial or dominance displays. The red river hog also has a prominent white mane that runs down 
the midline of its back along with long white whiskers. The canine teeth form tusks, like in all other wild pigs. Tusks not only occur on the males but also on the females. (2) The distinctive features that males have to distinguish them from females are the warts found above the eyes. These warts protrude about four centimeters from the head, but they are not easily seen due to the amount of facial hair surrounding them. (1) There are thirteen recognized subspecies, so the physical characteristics vary across the hogs’ range.  The West-African bush pig is the one described above with reddish fur and a white dorsal stripe. In the eastern and southern parts of their range, the pigs vary from different shades of red to brown to black. (2) They can also become darker with age.

Red river hogs are very social animals. They form small family groups of about four to six members that are led by the dominant male (boar). Although larger groups of about fifty hogs have been seen congregating, these groups usually avoid each other and can become aggressive when their groups come into contact with one another. (1) They are known to mark their paths using two unique techniques. The first is leaving their scent that is secreted from facial glands, like from the neck and preorbital gland, and they also have glands in their feet that are easily used to mark their paths. (2) The other technique they use is scraping the trees with their canines (tusks). (2) The sound that the red river hog makes is easily comparable to those of other wild pigs. When they feel threatened or are fighting however they will make a low squealing sound that develops into a roar-like sound. They are most active during the night and are known to retreat to burrows with dense vegetation during the day. They are capable of covering long distances in search of food. In the wild the breeding season for these hogs begins in September and goes until April. The peak season is in the wetter months of November through February. Females are sexually mature at the age of three. (2) Their gestation period is roughly four months and the litter size can consist of one to six piglets. The average litters contain four piglets. (2) The female will make her own nest, which is large and hidden deep in the grasses and lined with vegetation. (4) The female is also the primary caregiver, but the piglets do receive attention from the dominant male as well. The piglets are allowed to leave the nest after only a couple days, and the female and her piglets will then rejoin the group. (4) Young males are able to make their own small "bachelor herds" while they wait for their chance to become the dominant male of a group. (4) The young females usually remain in their natal group. Once the adult female is able to reproduce again, the younger offspring are pushed aside. 

Here is a video of the red river hogs at the Sand Diego Zoo with their babies!

Conservation Status
Red river hogs are not considered to be an endangered species. According to the ADW, their numbers are on the rise due to their top predator, the leopard, being hunted by humans and also because of the increase in agriculture. (2) The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists the bush pigs as a "least concern." This is due to the species being relatively widespread and common. (3) There are also no major threats that seem to be resulting in a significant population decline. There are several positive and negative economic issues for humans concerning the red river hog. The red river hog can be a food source for humans, and it is also said that it's possible to domesticate these pigs. (2) Because their population numbers are on the rise, red river hogs can be very destructive. In large groups the red river hogs can destroy crops and can eat livestock. (2) They are also known to carry diseases, like the African Swine Fever, that does not affect the hogs but can affect domesticated livestock. (2) Although there have been decent increases in red river hog populations, some areas have noticed drastic declines, like southern Gabon due to hunting. The hogs have also become a problem for farmers who shoot the pigs when they see them in hopes of exterminating them. (4) The red river hog can be found in various protected areas throughout its range. Organizations like the Bushmeat Crisis Task Force are working to help prevent the harvest of African wildlife for the commercial bushmeat trade. (1)

(1) "Red River Hog (Potamochoerus Porcus)." Red River Hog Videos, Photos and Facts. Wildscreen Arkive. Web. Dec. 2014. <>
(2) "Potamochoerus Porcus (red River Hog)." Animal Diversity WebNational ScienceFoundation (NSF) & University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. Web. Dec. 2014. <>.
(3) Querouil, S. & Leus, K. 2008. Potamochoerus porcus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <>. 
(4) "Red River Hog Potamochoerus Porcus." The Sacramento Zoological Society. Web. Dec. 2014. <>.
(5) "Emergency Prevention System for Animal Health (EMPRES-AH)." Emergency PreventionSystem for Animal Health (EMPRES-AH). Animal Production and Health Division. Web. Dec. 2014. <>.
(6) "Home | Bushmeat Crisis Task Force." Home | Bushmeat Crisis Task ForceWeb. Dec. 2014. <>.

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