Although the peccary looks like a pig, it is from a completely different family than the common pig. The peccary lives in South America, Central America, and in the southwestern areas of the United States.
Scientific & Common Names
Biologists call the peccary Pecari tajacu. Peccaries are sometimes called the musk hog, javelina, or the collared peccary.
Even though the peccary is from a different family tree than the common pig, it has a pig-like snout, big head, bulky shoulders, and hoofed feet. Javelinas have thick, bristly coats that are usually greyish-black. A white band of white or yellowish fur encircles their necks, like a collar. Atop the peccary's rump lies a musk gland which emits a strong musky odor. Peccaries are usually about 45 to 60 inches long, and weigh between 20 and 60 pounds.
Female peccaries reach puberty between 9 and 13 months of age, while males are able to breed around 11 months old. Peccaries will breed all year, and females usually give birth to twins after a 5 month gestation period. Most peccary females have one set of offspring each year.
Social animals, peccaries usually live in small groups of 5 to 12 peccaries led by a dominant male. These animals prefer to eat, sleep, and forage in groups, unless they are old or ill. Because they live in climates that are very hot, peccaries are mostly active in the early morning hours and the late evening hours. During the day, peccaries tend to congregate near water or in deeply shaded woodlands. Peccaries are omnivores, feasting on nuts, seeds, insects, lizards, and especially on cacti. They can survive in a wide range of climates, including arid deserts, tropical rain forests, and woodlands.
Ancient peccaries lived only in South and Central America. The peccary is a relatively new arrival to the Southwest, perhaps arriving as Arizona's historic grasslands were replaced by scrub-brush and cacti. Until 1929, the musk hog was not regulated as big game. However, in that year wildlife management officials began regulating the hunt of peccaries.
While peccary habitat is dwindling in South America due to deforestation, overall numbers of musk hog are stable. They are common in Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico, and their hides are an income source for people in Central America.