Well, ask the Anderson male leopard. He was found recently with some pretty serious gashes to his face and neck.
Ok to be fair we can’t say conclusively that these were inflicted by a warthog since no one actually witnessed the event, but given that the leopard was found with a large warthog kill and these are just the kind of injuries that warthogs have been known to inflict on leopards before, it wouldn’t be stretching it to say that he received them while trying to bring the pig down:
Unofficially the biggest leopard in the Sabi Sands, the Anderson male is an absolutely enormous individual in north western Londolozi.
Although the Anderson male ultimately made a meal out of that particular warthog, the conflict certainly doesn’t always go the way of the big cats. We have regularly found leopards that have been gashed quite badly, and indeed it’s usually only the bigger male leopards that will attempt to tackle an adult warthog boar. Lions sometimes give them the go-by as well, as one slash from razor-sharp tusks can be almost fatal.
Far more often it is younger warthogs and sows that are the targets of predator attacks. The piglets in particular are incredibly vulnerable during the first few months of their lives, and are taken by a variety of predators – eagles and pythons especially – although their mother will defend them ferociously if she is able to.
At the end of last year I sat with the Nhlanguleni female leopard as she watched from a termite mound as a warthog sow took her tiny piglets on their first foray out of their den:
As one can see in the photo, the piglets stayed as close to their mother as they possibly could, relying completely on her sharp tusks to keep them safe. The Nhlanguleni female must have decided that the risk of those tusks for the tiny mouthful that one piglet would have provided simply wasn’t worth it, so let the sounder retreat to their burrow unmolested.
Other warthogs aren’t so lucky though, as the following series of photos will demonstrate:
Funny looking creatures, warthogs are usually viewed with a certain amount of mirth by visitors to the bush, but their comical appearance ultimately belies the danger they pose. Big boars can top the scales at close to 100kg, and can run really fast when they need to. Forget their tusks for a moment; just a boar coming barrelling into you at Mach 2 is likely to hurt, so predators try to catch them from behind as much as possible, avoiding the sharp end.
Leopards will wait on top of termite mounds above warthog burrows, knowing the occupant(s) have to emerge eventually. When they do, a lightning dash and a swift grip to the throat usually ends it.
The brother of the Tu-Tones male from the same litter, the Makhotini male has had a far more successful life.
More often than not warthogs figure that discretion is the better part of valour, and flee from danger, but woe betide the predator that comes up against a cornered one, or is slightly poor in the execution of its takedown… the wrong warthog can inflict some serious, serious damage!