Walking the dogs here can be challenging.
The problem is, they like to chase wildlife. And yesterday, as I was being dragged headlong through the undergrowth (and let me tell you, huskies can drag), I began to feel nervous about what we might be pursuing. It's not as if I don't have cause: I've seen my dogs chase elephants, crocodiles, porcupines and mambas. And somewhere up ahead I could hear something big, growling.
As we emerged from a tangle of thorn bushes on to the fence line, I sighted our quarry: a large bush pig struggling to squeeze under the lower wire of the fence. Bush pigs (Potamochoerus porcus) are lovely: classically pig-shaped but with shaggy rufous fur and a long white mane that extends right along their backs. Their ears are tasselled at the ends and their faces patterned with white eye rings and side whiskers.
This is only the fourth time I've glimpsed the species (they're nocturnal and favour dense cover) but I was too preoccupied to really enjoy the moment. Bush pigs, you see, are famous for their viciousness when cornered (bailed up against a fence?) or attacked (by slavering huskies?). They are very powerful (weighing 60 kg) and use their 7 cm, razor-sharp lower incisors to slash at their adversary, leaving deep, vertical gashes. My vet says they're expert at disembowelling dogs. Fortunately - before we could put legend to the test - the bush pig managed to squirm under the fence and crash off into the undergrowth.
Bush pigs don't only use their tusks for self-defence. They tusk trees and vegetation, gouging out scars and applying an odorous secretion from their tusk glands. The pungency of this goo is heightened by the bacterial decay of vegetation in the pig's cheek pouches (located behind the upper tusks). It gets worse: bush pigs greet one another by blowing their breath into one another's faces.
Photo from Wikipedia.