Desert warthogs are stockily-built animals with males being larger than females. They have a rather flattened head with distinctive facial paired protuberances ("warts") and large curving canine teeth that protrude as tusks. They are larger in males than in females. Their body is sparsely covered with bristly hairs and a more dense region of hairs runs along the spine and forms a crest. The tail is long and thin and is tipped with a small brush of coarse hair. Desert warthogs are generally mid to dark brown in color but the crest is sometimes whitish.
Desert warthogs are native to Northeast Africa. Their current range extends from southeastern Ethiopia through western Somalia to eastern and Central Kenya. Desert warthogs inhabit open arid countryside including thin woodland with scattered trees, xerophytic scrubland, and sandy plains, but not upland areas. They need regular access to waterholes and so may occur near villages and places where water seeps to the surface in otherwise dry areas.
Desert warthogs are diurnal animals that live in social groups called "sounders". These groups consist mostly of females and their offspring; males tend to live in solitude or form bachelor groups. A sounder occupies a home range of about 10 square kilometers (3.9 sq mi) which is usually centered on a water hole. These warthogs dig a number of burrows, or take over holes excavated by other animals, and move from one to another. Where the ranges of two different groups overlap, each may use the same burrow on different occasions. The groups do not interact to any great extent. Desert warthog have specific warning grunts that alert the rest of the group to danger. They may freeze initially but then rely on their speed to escape. They can travel for short distances at 55 km/h (34 mph) as they run to the safety of one of their burrows. The young dive in head first but the older animals reverse direction and back in so that they can defend themselves with their tusks.
Desert warthogs are mainly herbivores (folivores), but also scavengers. They forage for grasses, leafy plants, flowers, and fruit. They dig up rhizomes, edible tubers and bulbs with their snouts and tusks and will eat insects when food is scarce, and even carrion. Desert warthogs sometimes eat dung, including their own, and will tear bark from trees.
Desert warthogs have a polygynandrous (promiscuous) mating system and both males and females have multiple mates during the breeding season. These animals breed at the end of the rainy season between March and May. The gestation period lasts about 170 days and a litter of usually 2 or 3 piglets is born in one of the burrows. The young begin to emerge from the burrow for short periods when about 3 weeks old and as they get bigger they follow their mother closely. They are weaned at 3 or more months but remain dependent on their mother for several more months after that. Males usually don't take a big part in parenting as they leave the group after the breeding season. Females provide both food for their piglets and protection, teaching them how to avoid predation and also how to forage. Desert warthogs become reproductively mature at one to one and a half years of age.
Desert warthogs are threatened by the habitat loss through degradation and fragmentation, as well as hunting. The larger tusks are traded as souvenirs in Somalia and sometimes exported. These animals also face competition at waterholes and for grazing with domestic livestock. Desert warthogs suffer as well from climatic conditions including droughts, high rainfalls, low temperatures, disease, and predation.
According to IUCN, the Desert warthog is locally common and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List but its numbers today are decreasing.
Due to their foraging habits and consuming large amounts of grass, leaves and flowers, Desert warthogs may influence plant communities in their range. They are also prey items for local predators such as lions, leopards, cheetahs, and hyaenas.