The peccary (or javelina, ) looks like a hairy pig on a diet. And
that's really what it is! It is related to domestic pigs (which originated from wild stock) and shares
their characteristic snout: nostrils facing forward in a hairless disk that is used for foraging in dirt
and leaf litter. The peccary's stocky rounded body is covered in coarse black, gray and brown fur and
has a tiny tail. The legs are relatively long and slender, compared to domestic pigs, and t. Scientists
recognize two species, the white-lipped T. pecari and the collared P. tajacu (prev. T.
tajacu). The collared is smaller and bears a faint pale stripe down the neck, and its chin is not
white, unlike the white-lipped (which should be called the white-chinned). Peccaries weigh from 40
to 60 pounds and stand about 19 inches tall at the shoulder. They have very poor eyesight, relying on a
keen sense of smell to find food and hearing and scent to avoid predators. Their blundering run can look
as though they are charging when actually they are trying to escape. Peccaries have long, sharp canines
that can inflict a severe wound. The teeth are often used in handicrafts made by native Amazon Indians.
HABITAT AND DISTRIBUTION
Peccaries are New World mammals, among the most widely distributed terrestrial mammals of the neotropics. The
collared peccary is found east of the Andes from northern Argentina to the southwest United States, just north
of the Mexican border. The white-lipped peccary's geographic range overlaps for the most part but does not
extend as far north. They're adaptable creatures, living in habitats from scrubland such as the Sonoran
desert in the U.S. to dense rainforest of the Amazon. To avoid the heat, desert populations are primarily
nocturnal and do not live in burrows. Due to their secretive nature, peccaries avoid hunters and predators.
The main restriction to their distribution is access to a water source for drinking, and they also will roll
in water and mud to cool off.
Peccaries usually roam in herds comprising up to 20 individuals, although 6 to 9 is more likely. Herds of
white-lipped peccaries number up to 300, creating a constant din (smaller groups are quieter). Males are
sometimes solitary. When moving around the herd follows single file along a trail and then disperses into the
forest to feed. Peccaries are wary and easily disturbed and will run off at the slightest noise. Herds in the
Amazon rest at night in deep burrows, often between the buttress roots of tall trees. (Desert-dwelling
peccaries are active at night and do not use burrows.)
FEEDING AND DIET
As you might expect from a pig, the peccary is not a fussy eater. They are omnivorous, eating primarily
plants, fruits, bulbs, tubers, beans and seeds. In rainforest fruits, palm nuts, herbaceous plants and snails
are on the menu. In desert areas, they forage among cacti, succulent plants, while they'll sometimes eat
insects, grubs and even small vertebrates. Around inhabited areas, they may be tempted to forage among
Peccary young are born year-round, most often from November to March. After gestation of about 000 months, females
give birth to a litter averaging two. (This is much smaller than the litter size of commercial pigs that are bred
for as high a litter number as possible.) Newborns up to 3 months old are red-brown or tan and in the Southern US
are called "reds." In addition, peccary young are precocial able
to walk and follow their mother soon after birth. (Domestic piglets are altricial, more or less helpless at birth and raised in a nest.) To
promote pack cohesion peccaries have a scent gland on their back. They engage in frequent marking activity, using
their hooves to scrape a spot on the ground and then defecating in the depression. They then use their back gland
to scent a nearby stick or branch. The presence of a herd is often betrayed by this powerful smell which resembles
old cheese or chicken soup. Animals from the same herd stand side-by-side and rub each other's scent glands with
their heads and they use scents to identify animals from different herds. Peccaries live an average of 7 to 8
Peccaries are widely hunted, and their meat is prized by hunters. They're also hunted for sport, although
the meat and hides are usually used. However, due to intensive hunting and habitat loss, local populations are
at risk, but the species is not generally threatened. They are listed on the CITES Appendix II.
TAXONOMIC NOTE: Two species of peccaries are found in the Amazon rainforest. Their taxonomy
(classification) has recently been revised. Peccaries are related to pigs but placed in a separate
family, Tayassuidae. Previously one genus was recognized, Tayassu, but this was revised into two genera,
Tayassu and Pecari by J. A. Bissonette (1999). Much of the literature prior to this
revision and since, continues to use the single genus.
Reference: Bissonette, J. A. 1999. Collared peccary / Pecari tajacu. Pp. 325-326, in D. E. Wilson and S.
Ruff, Eds. 1999. The Smithsonian book of North American mammals. Smithsonian Institution Press,
Washington. 750 pp.