Sus barbatus, commonly known as Bearded Pigs, are found in Malay Peninsula, Riau Archipelago, Sumatra, Bangka, Borneo and Karimata Island to the south, Sibutu and Tawitawi islands in the Sulu Archipelago, Balabac and Palawan and the Calamian islands in the western Philippines.
Biogeographic Regions: oriental (Native )
The Bearded pig was fairly abundant and widespread in the Malaysian Peninsula until relatively recently (Caldecott et al. 1993). As late as 1990, herds of bearded pigs were reported in central Peninsular Malaysia at Taman Negara National Park (Khadijah 1990) and in a forest reserve south of Taman Negara (Johns 1983). But between 1999 and 2001 an intensive camera-trapping study of three sites covering 600 km² of the park did not record the presence of the species (Kawanishi and Sunquist 2004). Elsewhere in 1996, a herd consisting of about 18 Bearded pigs, was seen in a forest reserve in Negri Sembilan in the southwestern peninsula (Kalan Ickes pers. comm., Ickes and Thomas 2003). In a peat swamp forest of southeastern Peninsular Malaysia, the species was reported present by local indigenous people (Sebastian 1998, Wetland International 2003) but a subsequent field survey (Traeholt and Lim 1999) and a camera-trapping study (Sharma and Ahmad Zafir 2005) did not to confirm the presence. At the turn of the 21st Century there were reports of bearded pigs still existing in southern Peninsular Malaysia (Kawanishi et al. 2006), including sightings in 2007 and 2008. Photographs as well as video recordings also exist of the species in Endau Rompin National Park (Song Horng pers. comm.).
In Sumatra, the Bearded Pig has been recorded in west Sumatra (Linkie and Sadikin 2003) in central Sumatra (Maddox 2007a) and in south Sumatra (Maddox et al. 2007b).
The Bearded Pig has the slimmest torso and longest head of all the living pigs. Distinguishing characteristics include two pairs of warts on the face with the first pair covered by the beard hair, thin whiskers on the face, and a two-rowed tail tuft. Pigs in general are medium sized artiodactyls with large heads, a short neck, and a powerful and agile body covered with a coarse bristly coat of hair.
The Bearded Pig has a dark brown-gray coat with a distinctive white beard on the face. It has small eyes and fairly long ears, corresponding with a well developed sense of hearing. The snout ends in a mobile disk-shaped structure that bears the nostrils. The snout is prominent and the sense of smell is well developed. The snout has on it a set of tusks formed by the lower canine teeth.
All pigs walk on the third and fourth digit of each foot, while the second and fifth digits are reduced in size and free from touching the ground.
Body length is 3.3-5.5 ft. Tail length is 8-12 in. Shoulder height is 2.4-2.8 ft.
Range mass: 41 to 150 kg.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Catalog Number: USNM 113150
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Mammals
Preparation: Skin; Skull
Collector(s): W. Abbott
Year Collected: 1901
Locality: Indragiri River Banks, About 30 Miles Above Mouth, Sumatra, Indonesia, Asia
- Type: Miller, G. S. 1902 Mar 05. Proc. Wash. Acad. Sci. 15: 51.
Bearded Pigs inhabit rainforests, mangrove thickets, and secondary forests.
Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; rainforest
Habitat and Ecology
Bearded pigs consume roots, fungi, invertebrates in soil and rotting wood, small vertebrates, turtle eggs, carrion, and items from at least 50 genera and 29 families of plants. Fruit supply is believed to have particular influence in determining growth rate, fat deposition and reproduction, with the oil-rich seeds of members of the tree families Fagaceae (oaks and chestnuts) and Dipterocarpaceae (dipterocarps) being especially important in this regard. Of these, the oaks are significant because of their relatively continuous or regular fruiting behaviour, and also because they can come to dominate submontane habitats. The dipterocarps are often dominant in lowland and hill forests, and strongly influence food availability for terrestrial seed-eaters by characteristically synchronized flowering and mast-fruiting behaviour (Caldecott, 1988; Pfeffer, 1959; Pfeffer and Caldecott, 1986; Davies and Payne, 1982; Janzen, 1974; Jessup et al., 1982; Leighton and Leighton, 1983).
Large-scale population movements by bearded pigs have often been reported in Malaysia (Allen, 1948; Kempe, 1948; Hislop, 1949, 1952, 1955) and Borneo (Shelford, 1916; Banks, 1931, 1949; Banks in Hislop, 1955; Pfeffer, 1959; Davies and Payne, 1982; Caldecott and Caldecott, 1985; Caldecott, 1988a, 1991). Pigs are described as moving consistently in one direction, in scattered or condensed herds, over a broad or narrow front, and over a period of several days, weeks or months. The animals are variously described as being in good, poor or very poor physical condition, sometimes accompanied by piglets and sometimes not, and regularly swimming across rivers, sometimes coastal bays and even out to sea. In some cases, the population is said to retrace its route later, or to follow a circular course to return whence it originally came. The distances traveled appear to vary greatly. Pfeffer (1959) described annual, apparently unidirectional, population movements in Kalimantan involving distances of 250-650 km, while Davies and Payne (1982) refer to annual reversible movements over tens of kilometers in Sabah. The approximate population tracks given by Caldecott (1988a) suggest rates of travel of 8-22 km/month sustained over at least 4-8 months as part of larger cyclical movements in interior Sarawak. Some reports indicate that such population migrations begin or end in particular locations where abundant food may be found. Thus, Davies and Payne (1982) linked movements to seasonally-fruiting Dinochloa bamboo groves, while Caldecott (unpubl.) reinterpreted historical accounts so as to link Malaysian bearded pig movements with predictable fruiting in camphor wood (Dryobalanops aromatica) forests. Caldecott (1988a) also described what appeared to be regular use of fruiting montane oak (Lithocarpus) forests in the upper Baram area of Sarawak.
In Sumatra bearded pigs also exhibit large scale population movements, but reports are anecdotal and often contradictory. Groups of up to 300 individuals are said to embark on long migrations, arriving at a given location at irregular intervals, sometimes as often as once a year but more frequently once every two to four years. In the highlands these movements do not seem to have any relation to the seasons, but in the lowlands the pigs tend to move out of the inundated forests to higher ground in the rainy season and back again in the dry season (Blouch, 1984). The relationship between these movements and the cycles of mast production has not been investigated.
Bearded pig populations exhibit a range of different states, which can be summarized as follows:
1. Dispersed, static populations exploiting small, dispersed, unpredictable and discontinuous 'background' food sources. Low breeding and growth rates possible. Local movements only (e.g., typical mixed dipterocarp forest in Borneo between generalized fruiting episodes).
2. Small to medium populations exploiting concentrated, predictable and continuous 'target' food sources. High breeding and growth rates possible. Local movements only (e.g.. Koompassia-Burseraceae forest in Malaya).
3. Small to medium populations, with members aggregating to exploit large, dispersed, unpredictable food sources. Breeding and birth rates depend on success of matching movements to fruiting within a dynamic phenological mosaic. Short to medium-range movements (e.g., typical mixed dipterocarp forest in Borneo between generalized fruiting episodes.
4. Small to large populations moving regularly to exploit concentrated, predictable and discontinuous target food sources. Breeding and growth linked to activity of food sources. Short-range to long-range movements. Size of population varies from year to year depending on background food supply (e.g., Dinochloa association in Sabah, or Dryobalanops aromatica association in Peninsular Malaysia).
5. Large and expanding population exploiting an exceptional supply of background food available over a period sufficient for several litters to be raised to sexual maturity. High breeding and growth rates characteristic. Long range movements (e.g., interior of Sarawak in 1954, 1959, 1983 and 1987).
6. Very large and collapsing population having exceeded background food supply. Low breeding and high death rates. Increasingly desperate long-range movements (e.g., starving herds reported from Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo).
The basic social structure is that of the major social unit being the mother family, a female and her litter. These units often join up, and much larger aggregations are formed occasionally, with scores or even hundreds of pigs traveling together. Fully adult males seldom associate with the natal groups. Age at first pregnancy presumably varies in the wild from about 10-20 months. In any one area, the rut coincides with synchronized flowering in the forest, with the timing being centered on the transition between late flowering and early fruit formation. Falling petals therefore offer a potential visual cue. A certain nutritional status may have to have been attained by females before they become responsive to whatever stimulus acts to trigger mating. Pregnant females had a median fatness index (finger-widths of fat depth at the shoulder) of 1.5, while rutting males scored zero by this measure (n = 19, 32).
Gestation length is not known but is estimated at 90-120 days, based on the interval between rut and the ensuing birth-peak. Birth occurs within a nest, which is constructed of vegetation by the mother, and which is occupied by her and the new piglets for a week or so. Data from hunter interviews indicated that the median number of piglets accompanying an adult female (n = 53) was 7, which was the same as the median number of fetuses counted in dead females (n = 8). Abbot in Davies (1962) reported a slightly higher median of 9 fetuses per female (n = 5). Litter size is very variable in part because of the influence of female size: small mothers typically have 3-4 piglets in a litter, while large ones have 10-12. Elsewhere, the range in litter size has been given as 3-11 piglets (National Research Council, 1983).
Fat reserves in the mother are used up quickly during lactation, and females accompanied by small piglets are almost invariably thin or very thin. Those with large piglets are fatter, and have presumably gained weight after weaning. This fattening process seems to depend on what fruit is available, with dipterocarp seeds and acorns having most impact. If these are abundant, it seems likely that two litters can be raised by a female within a year.
The Bearded Pig utilizes its long snout to dig in the ground for earthworms and roots. Fruit and gum tree seedlings are also part of the diet. Bearded Pigs often follow groups of macaques to feast upon the fruit that the macaques let fall to the ground. On the coast, they have also been known to feed upon dead fish that wash ashore.
Life History and Behavior
Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical
Status: captivity: 16.2 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Sexual maturity is reached at roughly 18 months, although most males do not gain access to receptive famale until reaching physical maturity at four years of age. The bearded pig along with other pigs of the genus Sus produce lip gland pheromones and a salivary foam during courtship. During courtship the male chants while nudging the female's flanks and sniffing her genital region. The male repeatedly attempts to rest his chin on the females rump. In fully receptive females, the male chin resting on her rump stimulates her to stand in the position of copulation. Mating can last up to ten minutes, during which time the spiral penis fits into the grooved cervix and a plug is formed after copulation.
The gestation period lasts roughly four months. When a pregnant female is ready to give birth, she leaves the herd and builds a litter nest on an elevation in the thicket. This nest can have a diameter up to 6 feet and a height of up to 3 feet. It is made of fern fronds, twigs, and dry palm fronds. On the litter nest, 2-8 young are born. In Borneo the number of young is usually only two or three. This small litter size is interesting considering the mother has five pairs of nipples. The coat of the infants is striped, with a dark brown stripe down the middle of the back and three yellowish and three dark brown stripes down the length of each flank. The piglets remain in the nest for ten days before following the mother. Weaning occurs at three months of age, but the piglets remain with their mother for roughly a year.
Key Reproductive Features: gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual
Average gestation period: 122 days.
Average number of offspring: 4.
Although the number of Bearded Pigs has declined in recent years due to habitat desruction, it is still fairly common. No exact estimates of population numbers were found.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: vulnerable
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 1996Lower Risk/least concern(Baillie and Groombridge 1996)
The unsustainable logging of dipterocarps in Bornean forests is changing the underlying ecology of the island, probably in such a way as to prevent bearded pigs from exhibiting in future the mass population eruptions and movements of the kind observed during the 1950's and 1980's. These phenomena are no longer seen in areas where extensive logging has already occurred. The bearded pig may be said to be consummately adapted to life in almost limitless dipterocarp forests. It is possible that the demise and fragmentation of Borneo's forests will allow wholesale invasion of the island by S. scrofa, which could then displace S. b. barbatus from much of its former range. The same may be said for Peninsular Malaysia, where several thousands of square kilometres of camphor wood forest have now been virtually destroyed, and the integrity of forest cover throughout the Peninsula is so disrupted that long-distance movement by forest-dwelling mammals is no longer possible in many areas. "Classic" bearded pig eruptions with maximum reproduction and population growth appear to be linked to consecutive and large mass fruit crops over an extended time period (Hancock et al. 2005). These consecutive mass fruit crops are thought to be compromised in the future not only by the loss of extensive and contiguous forest cover, but also by climate change (Hancock et al. 2005).
Meanwhile, a more sedentary population of bearded pigs, apparently associated with continuously-fruiting, Koompassia-Burseraceae forests in western Malaya, is probably endangered by hunting and habitat destruction. The habitat changes experienced by the Peninsula since the Second World War have almost certainly favoured S. scrofa over S. barbatus, and the latter species is believed to be in serious jeopardy as a result. Although habitat loss and disruption have almost certainly contributed to the bearded pig's rarity in Peninsular Malaysia, competition with Eurasian wild pigs might also be a significant factor (Kawanishi et al. 2006). Available data indicate that wherever they are sympatric (not necessarily syntopic), the number of Eurasian wild pigs is greater than bearded pigs (Ickes 2001, Ickes and Thomas 2003, Maddox 2007). Both in Peninsular Malaysia and Sumatra, the Eurasian wild pig has a much greater distribution range than the bearded pig.
In Sumatra, habitat disturbance has been at least as extensive as in Malaya and where a comparison between the current distribution of bearded pigs and that of the remaining native forest supports the contention that the species cannot long survive the reduction and fragmentation of these habitats. The same situation probably applies to Bangka and the Riau Archipelago where habitat disturbance has been at least as extensive as in Sumatra, and where the continued survival of the species is not clear.
As bearded pig populations decline, the impact of hunting for meat, once probably sustainable in many areas, is becoming much more serious, and hunting is probably now a serious threat in many places.
Repeated complaints about crop depredations by Moslem communities in communities in Sibutu and Tawitawi Islands in southwestern Philippines have not only led to appeals to the relevant authorities to try to eradicate these animals, but also to the discovery of a new (if as yet unpublished) description of a wild pig species endemic to Tawitawi and offshore islands (Oliver 2001; Rose and Grubb, unpublished), though it remains unclear whether S. barbatus occurs sympatrically or is replaced by these animals on these islands.
The Bearded pig is a protected game species under the Protection of Wildlife Act (1972) in Peninsular Malaysia and can be hunted with license with no bag limit for meat or as a measure of pest control. If, as it appears, the Bearded pig distribution is limited to southern Peninsular Malaysia, special management interventions are necessary to protect the species from extinction in Peninsular Malaysia. Regulating hunting of Bearded pigs alone will be difficult as hunters do not differentiate Bearded pigs from sympatric wild pigs. A study to determine the status and distribution of the species is necessary first to clearly identify what further actions may be required. Its marginal occurrence in the Philippines, where it is undoubtedly seriously threatened by virtue of its extremely limited distribution and active persecution, is unquestioned, but not yet reflected in local legislature.
The Bearded pig is protected under the Sarawak Wildlife Protection Ordinance, 1998 (Part IV of the Ordinance - Protection of Wildlife) specifically the Trade Ban (Section 33) that prohibits the hunting or selling of wildlife species or wild meat. However, hunting for subsistence in rural areas is still allowed (Chin 2001, Junau et al. 2006).
The only apparent captive population of Peninsular Malaysian Bearded pigs seems to be the herd of 7 males and 10 females at Singapore's Night Safari. There are two captive herds of Bearded pig in Peninsular Malaysia, 8 individuals at Zoo Taiping and 14 at Zoo Negara in Kuala Lumpur (Lazarus and Ngah pers. comm.) but these two herds are all of Bornean origin. The Singapore animals stem from three wild importations totaling 2 males and 2 females in 1991 from Johor. Should further research indicate that a limited reintroduction of captive-bred animals was deemed appropriate as part of a broader conservation plan, the Singapore stock could provide animals for release (Kawanishi et al. 2006).
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Due to their lack of shyness during migration and predictable times and routes of migrations, Bearded Pigs are easy prey for native humans. The natives wait along the borders of the migratory routes and hunt the pigs as they come along. The pigs travel in large herds and are relatively defenseless and unable to flee. The Beared Pig is used by natives as a dependable source of meat once a year.
Bornean bearded pig
The Bornean bearded pig (Sus barbatus), also known ambiguously as the bearded pig, is a species of pig. It can be recognized by its prominent beard. It also sometimes has tassels on its tail. It is found in Southeast Asia—Sumatra, Borneo, the Malay Peninsula, and various smaller islands like in Sulu archipelago. where it inhabits rainforests and mangrove forests. The bearded pig lives in a family. It can reproduce from the age of 18 months, and can be cross-bred with other species in the family Suidae. The San Diego Zoo was the first zoo in the Western Hemisphere to breed them. As of January 2011, it is also held in London Zoo, Hellabrunn Zoo, Gladys Porter Zoo, Lowry Park Zoo, National Zoo of Malaysia (Zoo Negara), Zoo Taiping, and Singapore Zoo.
- S. b. barbatus (the nominate subspecies)
- S. b. oi (the western bearded pig)
As traditionally defined, the nominate is from Borneo, and S. b. oi is from the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra. Genetic evidence suggests this is incorrect, and S. b. oi is better limited to Sumatra, leaving bearded pigs from both Borneo and the Malay Peninsula in the nominate subspecies. Those from Bangka Island appear somewhat intermediate between the two subspecies.
The Palawan bearded pig (Sus ahoenobarbus) has formerly been considered a subspecies of the bearded pig. However, as indicated by its genetic and morphological distinctness, under the phylogenetic species concept (which does not use subspecies) it needs to be elevated to full species status; while the situation is less clear under other species concepts (as not all S. barbatus populations have been restudied in modern times), the presently available information seems to favor full species status for S. ahoenobarbus in any case.
- Grubb, P. (16 November 2005). Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M, eds. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
- Kawanishi, K., Gumal, M. & Oliver, W. (2008). Sus barbatus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 5 April 2009. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of vulnerable.
- ISIS (2011). Sus barbatus. Version 12 Jan 2011
- Lucchini, Meijaard, Diong, Groves and Randi (2005). New phylogenetic perspectives among species of South-east Asian wild pig (Sus sp.) based on mtDNA sequences and morphometric data. J. Zool., Lond. 266: 25–35
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