General: Collared Peccaries (Pecari tajacu,) also known as Javelinas because of their javelin-like tusks, are members of the peccary family, and
bear a physical resemblance to (and are commonly mistaken as) wild pigs. These highly adaptable mammals have spread their range northward and now inhabit territories from northern Argentina to the American Southwest. Collared Peccaries are one of the most popular game animals in the southern United States and their populations remain stable and healthy. Listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, these animals are prized by some for their hides, kept by others as domesticated farm pets, and considered nuisances by others who have to tolerate them on their property in search of an easy meal.
Description: Collared Peccaries are sometimes mistaken for wild pigs because of their physical appearances. Their coarse, bristly hair and hog-like snouts lend to this misnomer.
Adult peccaries measure 12”-19” at the shoulder, are 30” to 39” long and weigh an average of 33lbs. to 55lbs1. They have large heads with short, nearly straight tusks (that earned the collared peccary its common name, javelina- after the tip-shaped spear,) crushing molars, small legs and hoofed feet (with four toes on the front feet and three toes on the rear, due to the absence of dewclaws.) The Collared Peccary earned its nickname “musk hog” because of its posterior, dorsal musk gland, used to mark territory and to identify individuals. Females have two sets of inguinal mammary glands2.
Collared Peccaries have grizzled gray-black coats, with yellowish cheeks, dark dorsal manes and white or yellow coloration extending from the mane, across the shoulders and onto the throat.
Sexual dimorphism is not strongly articulated within this species. However, the young are born with a reddish or yellow overall coloration.
Collared Peccaries activity levels adjust according to the climate and time of year. During the summer they are most active at night, sleeping in the shade during the heat of the day. In the winter, peccaries commonly forage during the day in order to take advantage of the sun and at night sleep in groups to share body heat3.
Collared Peccaries are a highly social mammal, living in stable groups with complex communication, social hierarchies, and relationships. These groups, numbering from five to up to thirty individuals, maintain a gender ratio of roughly 1:1 and are comprised of codependent individuals, relying on the each other to eat, sleep, groom, and survive. Each group contains a dominant male who is responsible for the majority of breeding. Typically, the rest of the social hierarchy is determined by size. Within these groups, it is not uncommon for a feeding group to break away from the herd and become the start of a new group4.
Collared Peccary groups have territories that are determined by the number of individuals within the group and food resources and can be 6 to
1260 hectares in size5. These ranges rarely overlap with other peccary groups. These territories are fiercely defended by males and females within the group, who establish and mark their borders with glandular secretions and feces. Collared Peccaries may also aggressively defend their territories, by squaring off, chattering their teeth, charging, biting, or locking jaws. When greeting and identifying other group members, individuals use their dorsal glands for scent recognition and rub together along the lengths of their bodies.
Collared Peccaries have poor eyesight. They do, however, have good hearing. Because of this, vocalizations play an important role in their social interactions. Collared Peccaries are able to make upwards of fifteen vocalizations, used to communicate alarm, submission and aggression6.
Habitat: Collared Peccaries live in a range of habitats from tropical rainforests and forests in South and Central America, to arid, desert or dune habitats of the American Southwest (including Saguaro deserts and mesquite habitats.) Collared Peccaries have also adapted to living in urban and residential environments, attracted to the ample food sources.
Within their habitats, coyotes, bobcats, pumas, jaguars, and humans prey upon Collared Peccaries7.
Location: Collared Peccaries are the only species of Peccaries (there are three total) to live outside of South America8, with populations of fourteen subspecies spanning from northern Argentina, across Central America, and into the American Southwest (Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona9.)
Diet: Collared Peccaries diets are dependent on seasonal changes, including temperatures and the availability of food sources. Temperatures determine foraging practices, with peccaries tending to feed during the day in the winter to take advantage of the heat from the sun and later at night in the summer to avoid extreme heat.
Collared Peccaries are mainly herbivorous, and their diets are primarily composed of agaves and prickly pears (food sources that are well suited for the peccaries dry habitats because of their high water contents, which eliminates the peccaries need to frequent water holes.) Additionally, peccaries eat roots, bulbs, beans, berries, nuts, fungi, and grasses, as well as fish, eggs, some reptiles and amphibians, insects, and carrion. A highly adaptable species, Collared Peccaries have also learned to frequent urban environments, where they become nuisances in search of food. The stomach of the collared peccary is complex and is able to break down coarsely chewed food10.
Reproduction: Collared Peccaries are the only hoofed animals found in the western hemisphere that have breeding seasons not constrained by season, but rather climate. Collared Peccaries can breed year round if conditions allow and tend to have more young during rainy years. Almost all breeding is completed by the dominant male of the herd (subordinate males may not approach a female in estrus11.)
Pregnant females leave the group before having their young to avoid the newborns being eaten by other group members. After a gestation period of 140 to 150 days, females give birth to one to three reddish or yellow young, weighing 1.5lbs, within an earthen den or hollowed log. At a day old, the young are able to travel with their mother and the family may safely return to the herd. Females from previous litters may help the mother care for her young, which are weaned by two to three months of age.
Females reach sexual maturity between eight and fourteen months old, whereas males are fully mature by eleven months old.
Collared Peccaries have been known to live up to 24 years old in captivity12. Some populations, however, are being threatened due to deforestation and destruction of habitat.
Notes of Interest: The Collared Peccary earned its common name, Javelina, because of the resemblance their tusks bear to the tip of a javelin13.
Peccaries were commercially hunted for their hides until 1939, when the species received the status of game animal14. Now, this big game species is prized as one of the most important game species in states such as Arizona ad Texas. In Texas alone over 20,000 peccaries are shot during each hunting season. Each year, approximately 10,000 peccary hides are still exported from Peru15.
It is not uncommon for young peccaries to be captured and kept as domestic farm pets16.