The babirusa’s canine teeth are greatly elongated to form tusks that resemble horns. This feature is the reason for its alternative name of "deer hog". There are probably little more than 4,000 of these wild pigs roaming the Indonesian forests of Sulawesi and its surrounding islands.
Unlike any other species of wild pig, whose tusks grow from the sides of the jaw, the upper tusks of the babirusa grow upwards through the muzzle. These pigs often visit salt licks, where scientists observe their behaviour.
Babirusas are most active during daylight hours. Elusive animals, babirusas prefer to forage in dense cover near water. Males usually live alone, while females and young go about in groups of about a dozen. The largest female is the matriach of the group. They have set nests where the group will sleep and seek shelter from the rain. Piglets do not have stripes running down their bodies like the adults. Various predators, including pythons, will prey especially on the young, and babirusa are also hunted for food. The tusks are not well designed for combat, and although males are aggressive when they meet, they rarely use their tusks in fighting. Females do not usually fight among themselves, but they sometimes attack by trying to bite the front legs of their opponents. Babirusas move in small groups, the male doing most of the rooting and unearthing of food, while females and young trail behind, feeding on items such as roots, berries, rubers and leaves. Babirusas are fast runners and good swimmers. They sometimes swim out to sea to reach small islands.
The female gives birth to 2 young after a gestation period of between 125 and 175 days.
Distribution: Occurs in Indonesia, with distribution centred on the islands of Sulawesi and Burn. Also Mangole and Taliabu in the Sula archipelago, and Batudaka, Talakoh and Togian.
Habitat: Damp, tropical forests.
Weight: 60 - 100 kg (132 - 220 lb); some variation in size between populations on different islands.
Length: 87 - 100 cm (34 - 39 in), including tail; up to 80 cm (32 in) tall.
Maturity: 5 - 10 months.
Gestation Period: 125-175 days; weaning occurs 6.5-8 months later.
Breeding: 2 litters of 1 or 2 young produced annually.
Diet: Omnivorous, eating vegetation, fruit, roots, small animals; also frequents salt licks.
Lifespan: 10 - 14 years.
The upper canines grow up and through the snout, curving round in front of the eyes.
The tail of babirusa is long and tapers significantly along its length.
The body covering varies significantly between individuals. Some are nearly bald.
Broad nostrils help detect scents, but the absence of a rostral bone means these pigs cannot dig well with their snouts.
The bottom set of canines are used for fighting, but the upper set help to protect the face from injury.