Giants of the Forest: The World’s Largest Wild Pigs
Daniel Xu 11.07.13
While the appetites of feral pigs are causing problems for many states across America, not even the most gluttonous can match the size of the giant forest hog (Hylochoerus meinertzhageni) of central Africa. Growing up to 600 pounds, the giant forest hog is considered the largest of all wild pig species. Very little is known about the animal, save that it lives deep within African forests. The species was named after British soldier, explorer, and big game hunter Richard Meinertzhagen when he discovered the first known specimen in 1903. Since then, little has been uncovered about the giant forest hog, despite the fact that the species is a popular quarry for local hunters.
According to National Geographic, wildlife researcher Jean-Pierre d’Huart ventured into the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Virunga National Park in the 1970s to document the giant pig. Lacking modern technology, d’Huart relied on traditional methods which often brought the researcher a little too close to the animals than he would have liked. He discovered that giant forest hogs, much like the other 17 species of wild pig, can be quite aggressive when threatened.
“Once or twice I was the victim of a charge,” d’Huart told National Geographic. “Wounds can be very nasty—when they really want to hurt you, they open the mouth and inflict wounds with their lower tusks, [which are] extremely sharp, like a knife.”
More recently, wildlife ecologist Rafael Reyna-Hurtado was able to record rare footage of the giant hogs in Uganda’s Kibale National Park:
The species is usually nocturnal and has a home range of only a few miles. Giant forest hogs gather in groups of up to 20 individuals, generally led by an older male. Hunters consider the giant forest hog the most dangerous of Africa’s pigs due to the sometimes unprovoked aggressiveness of males. Large males have been known to drive away groups of hyenas.
Although giant forest hogs share the adaptability of their feral, North American cousins, scientists are concerned that the species is in decline. Giant forest hogs are currently considered a species of least concern by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and exist entirely within central (and perhaps western) Africa. There are no known populations in North America. In their natural environments pigs are vital to the ecosystem, with the very same destructive tendencies redistributing soil and controlling plant growth.
The world’s smallest pig species is the pygmy hog, of which less than 200 individuals exist.