Hogging the limelight
Tuesday 16 November 2004
Three little piglets have joined the red river hog family at London Zoo. Born on the 19 September, the tiny females, Lola, Lotty and Lara can now be seen running around their paddock and playing boisterously with each other
At the moment the piglets are reddy brown in colour, except for their pale cream spots and stripes. This colouring acts as camouflage for the youngsters, as when threatened red river hog piglets will generally crouch and hide. However, these markings are fading and the piglets will soon be red and brown all over, like their parents; the feature for which they are most commonly known, and the inspiration for their name.
Red river hogs, or Potamochoerus porcus, inhabit the forests and swamps of western and central Africa. Most active at night, these creatures can often be found rooting for tubers with their up-turned snouts. They typically feed on grasses and fruit. Our own hogs enjoy a diet of carrots, apples, bananas and pig pellet. The red river hog is an excellent swimmer and runner, which the new babies keep proving as they race around after each other in their enclosure!
The piglets' outdoor enclosure closely mimics that of their natural habitat. They can often be seen with mum and dad pigging out or just enjoying the mud!
Red river hog family
Facts and figures
- Studbook keeper: Achim Winkler (Zoo Duisburg/Germany)
- The father of the piglets is called Salvador
- The shaggy, foxy red coat has contrasting black and white markings on the head, including a white eye ring. *The leaf-shaped ears have long black and white tassels and the erectile mane which runs the length of the spine is white
- Both of these features are used as defences, as they greatly increase the perceived size of the pig when fluffed out
- The upper tusks are relatively small and almost invisible, while the lower ones are razor sharp and grow 7 cm long
- Gestation Period: 120 - 127 days
- Young per Birth: 1 - 4, rarely up to 6
- Weaning: At 2 - 4 months
- Sexual Maturity: At 18 - 21 months
- Life span: 20 years
- Flight becomes the more frequent response to danger as hogs mature
- When cornered or wounded, these pigs display considerable courage and frequently attack
- Family group: Sounders of 2 - 15 females and young attended by a male
- Diet: Grasses, water plants, roots, bulbs, fruit, carrion, small animals
- Main Predators: Humans, leopard, lion, spotted hyena, python