Red river hog (Potamochoerus porcus)

French: Potamochère D' Afrique
GenusPotamochoerus (1)
SizeHead-body length: 100 – 150 cm (2)
Weight50 – 120 kg (2)

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

Instantly recognisable for its bright rufous fur, the red river hog is undoubtedly the most strikingly coloured of all wild pigs (2) (3). Despite being, on average, the smallest African pig, this species possesses a stocky body with powerful shoulders, and a large, wedge shaped head, enabling it to quickly root up tough vegetation (3) (4). The ears are long and pointed, with prominent tufts, while the head is distinctively marked with white ‘spectacles’ around the eyes, and bears long, white whiskers (2) (5). A conspicuous white mane also runs down the midline of the back (4). Like all wild pigs, the canine teeth form tusks, with the upper set measuring around 7 centimetres in length, while the lower set measure up to 19 centimetres. Males also have large warts in front of the eyes, which protrude by as much as four centimetres, but are usually obscured by facial hair (6). The red river hog’s most common vocalisation is a typical pig grunt, although individuals that are fighting or trapped produce a low squeal which develops into a roar-like sound (4).

The red river hog has a wide, but patchy, distribution extending from Senegal in the west, throughout the Guinea-Congo forest, as far east as the Albertine Rift, on the eastern border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (1).

The red river hog is typically found in rainforest, gallery forest and moist savanna woodlands, where dense vegetation occurs (1) (2) (6). It is, however, highly adaptable and also exploits cultivated areas located nearby rainforest (1).

Like other wild pigs, the red river hog has a broad, omnivorous diet, and spends most of its adult life in search of food (2) (4). This species is usually active at night, returning to a burrow excavated amongst dense vegetation during the day (6), although in forests and shaded areas individuals may also forage during the morning and evening (4). Food is located using the sensitive, disc-like snout, which identifies edible material by both touch and smell, and also serves as a plough for rooting up vegetation (4) (6). Roots, berries and fruits are the most common sources of food, although small mammals, reptiles, young birds eggs and carrion may all be eaten when available (4) (6).

The red river hog is highly sociable, and forms family groups, usually of four to six individuals, led by a dominant male (5). Groups normally avoid one another, giving ritualised aggressive displays and occasionally fighting when encounters occur, although wandering groups of over 50 individuals have also been known to form (5) (6). Frequently used paths are marked with scented secretions from facial glands as well as gouges in tree bark made with the tusks (4) (6). Breeding takes place from September to April, with a peak in births during the warm, wet summer season between November and February. After a gestation period of around four months, three to four piglets are born, which are initially protected within a large nest of grass, three metres across and one metre deep (6). After leaving the nest the piglets join the family group and are protected by the dominant male (5). The red river hog reaches sexual maturity at three years and can live for between ten and fifteen years (2) (6).

Common and relatively widespread, the red river hog is not currently considered to be threatened. Nevertheless, as a result of uncontrolled hunting, localised declines have been recorded in some areas, such as southern Gabon (1). This species is targeted not only for subsistence purposes, but also for the commercial bushmeat trade, as an agricultural pest, and because it spreads livestock diseases. As a result, the red river hog is one of the most hunted species in the Congo Basin (1). At present, however, hunting pressure may be offset somewhat by the fact that this species benefits from the spread of agriculture, as well as the human-induced decline of its main predator, the leopard (6).

The red river hog occurs in a number of protected areas throughout its range (1). In addition, conservation organizations such as the Bushmeat Crisis Task Force are working to prevent the unsustainable harvest of African wildlife for the commercial bushmeat trade (7).

To learn more about the effects of the bushmeat trade on African wildlife visit:

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  1. IUCN Red List (July, 2014)