Hunting Giant Forest Hog in Central Africa
by, 05-09-2012 at 04:51 AM (7373 Views)
Hunting Giant Forest Hog in Central Africa
This is the biggest, heaviest, rarest and ugliest of the Suidae family of Africa. A forest monster from a fairy tale.
The Giant forest Hog or GFH is native to wooded habitat and, despite its large size, remains largely unstudied and was only described for science in 1904, a mere 108 years ago!!! The specific name honors Richard Meinertzhagen, a British colonel, who shot the type specimen in Kenya and had it shipped to the Natural Museum in London.
From my observations in the hunting areas where Hylochoerus Meinertzhageni lives, the boars reach up to 2,1 meters in lenght and 1,1 meter in height and weigh as much as 220 kilograms. Females weigh about 50 kilograms less. Adults of both sexes are black with long, sparse, wiry hair covering the body. Down the midline of the back, very long bristles from a mane that is raised when they are excited or in danger.
The face of the GFH is very distinctive.
Boars develop large naked swellings beneath their eyes, which becomes even bigger when matting.
Boars develop large naked swellings beneath their eyes.
The flat rounded nose disc is exceptionally large, measuring up to 17 cm across.
Mature males also have swollen preorbital glands which can exude copious secretions which spread over their faces.
Both sexes have sharp tusks
In boars, the tusks flare outwards and backwards with a slight upward curve- never as long as those of a big warthog but much longer than those of a red river hog.
Rowland Ward's Records of big game has a minimum entry level of 7 7/8 inches and the world record, which measured 15 1/2, was shot in Uganda. The SCI number one was shot in Ethiopia, the longest tusk was 13 inches. It is true that currently the biggest GFH are shot in Ethiopia, while in the CAR where I hunt for them, the average tusk in lenght is about 8 1/2 inches long and with a bit of luck you can get 10 inches up to 11 1/2 inches.
Giant forest hog are tied to the full canopy rain forests of Africa. They are found from Guinea to Ghana, from Nigeria to Kenya, up to the north of Tanzania and Ethiopia. Cameroon, Ethiopia and the Central African Republic , however, are the only countries where you can hunt them on license, the last country having to date, the highest success rate until now.
Reproduction may take place year round but tends to be seasonal with a peak in birth rates usually around the start of the rainy season in April/May. The GFH sows reach the sexual maturity by 18 months and the gestation period is about 140 to 150 days. They give birth to between 2 and 5 piglets. Female isolate themselves and built a large grab-and-branch nest in which to give birth. Sow and piglets leave the nest and join the sounder after about a week.
In competing for females, boars fight like a wild sheep, charging at each other from some 10 to 20 meters and slamming their heads together. When their facial protuberances are aligned on contact, the escaping trapped air from the resulting smash sounds like a rifle shot-much like when a paper bag is blown up, screwed closed and popped, only much louder of course- and can be heard from afar. These fights may cause facial fractures and can be fatal. Repeated charges may continue for up to half an hour with jaws champing, spittle flying and urine squirting every time. "can you imagine such a scene".
GFH are scattered across Africa but they do not tolerate low humidity. Their range resembles that of the Bongo- mainly forest grassland mosaics, swamp forest, gallery forest and wooded savannah. A year round and plentiful supply of green fodder and dense cover are found wherever the hogs occur. Their range, about 20 square kilometers in extent, is punctuated by sleeping sites, latrines, wallows, water holes, salt licks and grazing meadows. They use pathways made by themselves to reach these places.
Mainly grazers (sometimes scavengers), they eat many types of grasses, sedges and herbs which are cropped at various stage of growth. Despite their long, flat and big snout, they tend not to root up the soil when feeding. They like mineral rich earth which they excavate with their lower incisors and form big holes and even caves.
The basic social group is a mother and her offspring, including two to three others with a mature boar in close attendance. The sounder is composed of 5 to 20 animals. They have also been known to associate with neighboring families using the same sites.
The GFH is considered a nocturnal animal, but I disagree. I have spent many nights in a machan overlooking salt licks without seeing a single hog. Where I hunt in the CAR they are completely diurnal and we see them between 08h00 and 16h00 with a peak at midday. My pictures confirm the fact. Here is one picture made by my trail cam at dark, it was 19h00, just after dark:
The GFH is also not a shy animal as some people think. His sense of hearing is good but human intrusion does not bother him as long as his flight or fight circle is respected. His eyesight is terrible and it is almost as if he is blind. I have known them to look straight at me from close range and not see me and I have walked up to within four to five meters of GFH without them moving away.
But his sense of smell is excellent and it reminds me of that of an elephant. He can smell you from quite a long distance and even where you have walked at salt lick, meadows or across their pathways. One day we were inspecting a salt lick for tracks when we saw a GFH sounder approaching. We moved 30 meters away, hid and waited. As the big sow reached the salt lick she smelled our tracks and immediately ran away with the rest of the group in hot pursuit. It taught me a lesson.
GFH are very noisy animals. They are not very careful when moving. It seems as if walking on dry leaves or through a noisy thicket when sneaking up on them does not bother them. When feeding, their almost hairless ears flap incessantly, flicking away flies and bees and making a clapping sound. Because of their poor eyesight, they are often very vocal. They use close contact quiet grunts and a louder barking call over distance. Boars make a extended grunting call that builds up to a trumpeting crescendo and then dies away and again sounds like a charging elephant... and almost as loud.
It reminds me of a story. We had tracked a big boar with great difficulty for nearly 4 hours. When we at last saw the boar, he was quartering away from us at a distance of about 20 meters. My client's 375 HH solid bullet had to traverse a thicket before it hit the hog. The boar went about 30 meters before it ran out of steam and lay down. We could still just see it when, we heard a strange sound that I never heard before. I asked the trackers what was it, what was going on? The trumpeting sound was very loud and they explained it was made by the dying boar. I wish I had been able to record the sound. As we moved closer, we could see all the other pigs surrounding the dead boar. I also remembered how smelly they were and that you could pick up their scent from quite far away.
The GFH is not an easy animal to hunt nor is it found in many collections. In fact, it is seldom seen at all. Most giant forest hogs are taken as targets of opportunity. But not anymore, believe me.... Where I hunt in the CAR, I do special 14 days hunt with a very high success rate because they are really plentiful due to the perfect biotope. On he first safari this year, in early January, we saw 104 GFHs with and American hunter and shot the 75th. In three months I saw in total of 185 GFHs !!
The 375 HH is the minimum caliber I recommend. Despite his big, heavy and wide body, the GFH is not a strong animal when wounded but he can sometimes be aggressive like all the other wild pigs. The area where you hunt them is often obscured by heavy grass, thick brush and trees and you may need to shoot through some of this so I often suggest the client loads solids in his rifle. Sow and boars are slightly different and through the scope of your rifle, you can see the dimorphism clearly. The males are much bigger than the females and often walk in front of the sounder. The big facial disc so pronounced on males is absent in females and the scrotum on males is very prominent.
But be careful and do not disregard a big animal merely because there is a piglet alongside, it could be a boar as they also associate with the young. Also double check a lone animal, it is not necessarily a male and could be a female. As I said before, they are not very shy and, once you know their behavior patterns in a given area, they become easier to hunt, at least it becomes a planned hunt not a "good luck" hunt. Of course I understand that it is not easy to wrap your mind around booking a hunt especially for GFH as it is for, say, a Lord Derby Eland, Bongo, Lion or Elephant, nevertheless it is an exciting safari in itself as a giant forest hog is a rare animal and makes a great hunt. Quite often you can see them from the car while driving or from a machan at a salt lick. Over the years I have learnt how to hunt them in interesting and exciting ways. For example, after a cold night you can be sure that they will be out and about. It is not necessary to go out early as it is not possible to follow the tracks in the dry season and also because they don't walk much at night. My technique consists of walking slowly around an area where they live. I usually start in a bako (a finger of rain forest on either side of a stream) and walk towards a salt lick or a meadow while trying to catch the scent of their vocalizations. But do not walk across their salt licks or clearings and leave your scent because, if you do, your hunt will be fruitless.
You can cover the area twice a day because they visit the salt licks almost every day. In between you can check some other spots especially when the sun is at its zenith as the best time to find them is between 11h00 and midday at salt licks and from 14h00 to 15h00 in the clearings or meadows where they feed. When you see them and the wind is in your favor, you can slowly move in very close, a few meters from them at any rate but, if they get your wind, they will rush flat out back to the nearest bako.
Unknown and undescribed, Giant forest hog, in an area where they are found in large numbers, are interesting, exciting, challenging and satisfying to hunt. They are a new passion for me-is it their ugliness or their craftiness??
The GFH is not the only pig of CAR. In fact , CAR is the only place in Africa where you can hunt all the indigenous wild pigs. Of course there is the eternal warthog in good numbers and some very good tuskers amongst them.
Then there is the red river hog, the orange host of the deep bakos that we hunt by calling hem !!
Three pigs, three colors (grey, orange, black), three biomes and three types of hunt: the "PIG GRAND SLAM of CAR" Sure, it is not a dangerous game challenge but it is very demanding and not easy to achieve in one hunt.
Tusk of the PIG GRAND SLAM.
Giant forest hog trophies:
Video: Hunting Giant forest hog in CAR