Rock Star Warthogs
Fast, fancy, and out to make friends
Hello again friends! Our apologies for missing a couple of Sundays; we had a few technical issues that have now been resolved. (By “technical issues” we mean a computer problem one week, and Marilyn throwing her back out the next). But we’re back to celebrate another amazing animal.
If you’re already a subscriber, feel free to forward this newsletter to others you think might enjoy it. If this issue has been forwarded to you or you are viewing it online, head to the Mouse and Minnow about page to learn more and subscribe, or explore some of our past issues by featured animal.
Some call you ugly;
I say you're divine.
Charming stout snout
Perfect for digging
Long and lean legs
For zagging and zigging.
The face of a warrior
Flattened and fierce
Curving white tusks
Ready to pierce.
But given the choice
You'd much rather run
You're only a fighter
When protecting your young.
Perhaps a few whiskers
As you grow old and wise
And that mane, oh that mane!
Your glorious tufts
The finishing touch.
So hold your head high
You prancing rock star
Be just who you are.
~ Marilyn Anne Campbell
It seems most articles and video clips about warthogs can’t help but start out with a comment along the lines of:
"Nothing pretty to look at..."
"The ugliest of the savannah's many residents..."
"Like something out of a nightmare..."
But there’s so much more to these African members of the pig family. How about:
“Commanding respect at a single glance…”
“One of the most well-adapted of the savannah’s many residents…”
“Like something out of mythology…”
Warthogs are highly adapted to their environment, changing their omnivorous diet with the seasons. They graze on grasses and fruits, take advantage of insects, eggs, and carrion, and dig deep into the ground with their wide, flexible noses to root out bulbs and, well, roots. But to dig they must lower themselves down and rest on the bent wrists of their front legs. This may sound like a flaw in their design, until you learn about one of their other skills. Warthogs are fast. They need longer legs than their other pig relatives so they have a chance at outrunning lions, hyenas, and other predators. If they can make it back to a burrow they will back in, protecting their rump and ready to take on their foe with the two sets of tusks both males and females have. Of course if they can’t run or if they have young to defend, warthogs will also face any predator head on.
But one of the most fascinating things about warthogs is their relationships with other animals. It’s long been known that warthogs and birds called oxpeckers have a mutually beneficial relationship, with the birds riding around on the warthogs’ backs to eat the insects from their tough hide. But it’s more recently been discovered that warthogs can have a similar relationship with hornbills, and even with mongooses, which is the first known mutualistic relationship between two kinds of mammals. The warthogs will visit a group of mongooses and lay down for a grooming session, reminiscent of the cleaning stations for fish run by the bluestreak cleaner wrasse featured in an earlier issue of Mouse and Minnow.
Check out the video below for a look at the warthog/mongoose interactions, and remember — there’s more to the warthog than that memorable mug.
Warthogs are well-adapted to the wild, but not to the living room. Watch Pickles the rescued warthog destroy a couch if you need proof.
It seems pretty safe to say the most famous warthog is Pumbaa from The Lion King. When the Disney classic was redone in a photo-realistic style in 2019, animators clearly did their research on how the animals moved. In this clip of Timon and Pumbaa meeting Simba for the first time, watch for Pumbaa running top speed with his tail raised, kneeling down to Timon’s level, and showing a bit of the nose waggle control that would help with sniffing and digging.
Barry Louis Polisar has a short children’s poem The Warthog in his book Peculiar Zoo.
If you’re in the United States, you can symbolically adopt a warthog from World Wildlife Fund and even opt of the adorable warthog plush (unfortunately international shipping isn’t available, and the warthog isn’t an option from WWF Canada).
Let us know how it goes if you decide to try out these YouTube instructions for making an origami warthog.
Share Your Thoughts
You can comment on any issue, hit the heart button under the title to let us know which issues you like, or reply to this email to send us a note directly. We also have an anonymous feedback form, if you’d like to share your thoughts privately.
Thanks for reading,
Marilyn & Steve
About & Subscribe
Mouse and Minnow is co-created by partners Steve Alguire (illustration) and Marilyn Anne Campbell (writing). Learn more about the newsletter or use the subscribe button below to receive original art and writing about the wonderful creatures of this world right in your inbox.
© All images and text are copyright the respective author. You are encouraged to share this newsletter with others by forwarding it or sharing the link to the online archive, but all other uses, including reposting individual or complete content, are not permitted without specific consent.