The giant forest hog (Hylochoerus meinertzhageni) of Africa is probably the largest wild pig in the world. There are three subspecies. None is endangered, although the western forest hog Hylochoerus meinertzhageni ivoriernsis is considered vulnerable to population reduction. The other subspecies are fairly widespread throughout central Africa. Yet the giant forest hog was unknown to Western science until 1904. This shows that a large animal, even one which exists in good numbers, can remain undiscovered for many years.
Adult male specimens of the giant forest hog can reach over two meters in length and weigh up to about 275 kilograms. Unlike some other wild pigs which are nearly hairless, the giant forest hog is covered in dark black hair. The hair may thin with age, revealing the dark black skin underneath. When agitated the pig raises a mane of hair around the neck.
Giant forest hogs live in groups ("sounders") of up to twenty animals. Most of the time these groups comprise a female and up to three generations of her offspring. Usually there is only one adult male per group, and males often live alone. They live mostly on grass and other plant materials and are more herbivorous than other omnivorous wild pigs. They also dig or grub for food far less than other pigs.
Male giant forest hogs do not tolerate the company of other males. Their fights are noisy, violent, and often result in injuries to both participants. Curiously the males may charge each other and butt heads, rather like some species of sheep.
Forest hogs react fiercely to threats from other animals. Sometimes they even drive predators away from their kills. Forest hogs will attack humans if shot at. Natives report male hogs will attack without warning or provocation, presumably in defense of the group from potential danger. Despite its ferocity, the giant forest hog can be tamed fairly easily. It may prove a good candidate for domestication.
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Last modified by pib on July 6, 2003.