With barrel-shaped bodies balanced on delicate deer-like legs, the Barbirusas are specifically found in the in the swamps and rainforests of Indonesian islands. In the Malay language, the word ‘Babirusa’ means pig-deer, as their wild-growing tusks are reminiscent of deer antlers. According to the scientists, the babirusas branched off from the rest of the pig family early in its evolution.
Due to the prominent upwards incurving horrific canine tusks of the males, which actually pierce the flesh in the snout, babirusas look absolutely prehistoric. The strange tusks normally reach up to 12 inches long and can actually grow all the way back into the skull. It is suggested that the males developed this extraordinary set of upper tusks to protect the eyes and throat from the slashing lower tusks of the competing males. During a fight, they use the upper tusks for defense, while the lower tusks are used as offensive weapons. However, the canines of the female are either reduced or completely absent.
Babirusas are about two feet tall and three feet long, weighing over 200 pounds. Their bristly skin looks dull grey or brownish and appear naked or hairless. Except in mud and swampy ground, a babirusa does not dig with its snout like other pigs, as it does not have a rostral bone in the nose. Unlike their fellow pigs, babirusas have a two-chambered stomach, but like all other pig species, they have an omnivorous diet with an intestinal tract similar to that of the domestic pig. Their food includes leaves, roots, fruits, bark, mushrooms, insects, fish and small mammals. Equipped with strong jaws, they are capable to crack hard nuts easily. They use their hooves to dig for roots and insect larvae in the ground and are capable to stand on their hind legs and feed on higher leaves.
Babirusas become sexually mature within one or two years of age. While male babirusas tend to live solitarily, the adult females can be found in groups with their young, most of which contain no adult males. Female babirusa cycle lengths are between 28 and 42 days and estrus last 2 to 3 days.
Mating season occurs from January to August and gestation in females lasts 155 to 158 days, which ends with one or two piglets, without the stripes on their skin. This absence of camouflage is often attributed to their peaceful and predator-free environment. Piglets nurse for the first six to eight months of life, develop quickly and typically begin to explore their environment and enrich their diet with solid food at about 10 days old.
Unfortunately, these animals are declining in the wild due to habitat destruction and over-hunting.