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Herd Dynamics
Life Cycle
Bed Areas
Water Requirements
What do they eat?
Scent Gland
Nuisance Javelina
Are they pigs?
Desert Plants

Is it a "Pig" or Not?

Most people think of Javelina as "pigs", just a desert variety of the common barnyard animal we all know so well.  The fact is Javelina do share common ancestry to old world pigs and even similarities in appearance.  However, Javelina have many significant differences.  They have a different number of teeth, a different gestation period, a complex (versus simple) stomach, and a musk gland on their backs--the fact is, they are not "pigs".

Both Javelina (collared peccaries ~ tayassu tajacu), and pigs are members of the order artiodactyla, suborder suiformes, sharing a common ancestry dating back some 30 million years.  But, because of significant anatomical and genetic differences they, have been placed in separate families - pigs in the Suidae family and Javelina in the tayassuidae. 


Typical Javelina). Photo By CK Rairden.

The adult Javelina weighs between 40 and 60 pounds, its coat is a grizzled grayish black throughout, except for  a whitish collar extending to the mane, over the shoulders.  Sows and boars are similar in size and color.  

Three Kinds

Fossil remains indicate there have been at least 30 species of now-extinct peccaries. They once ranged throughout the United States and northward into the Yukon. When the Central American land bridge formed about seven million years ago, peccaries soon crossed it and established themselves in tropical South America.

Today there are three living species of peccaries:

Collared Peccary (tayassu tajacu)  which ranges from the southwestern United States to northern Argentina and western Paraguay.

White-lipped Peccary (tayassu pecari), ranging from southern Mexico to northern Argentina and western Paraguay.

Chacoan Peccary (catagonus wagneri), known locally as the tagua. This species is found only in the Gran Chaco, a vast area of dry thorn-bush and thorn-forest in western Paraguay, northern Argentina, and eastern Bolivia.

New to the USA

In the United States, Javelina are found in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Having evolved in the South American tropics.

Javelina are relative newcomers to North America. A careful review of Arizona archeological sites (between 300 B.C. to 1700 A.D) reveals no evidence of Javelina in cook fire bone fragments, pottery artwork, petroglyphs, lore or legend.  Spanish missionaries provided the first evidence of Javelina near present day Arizona in the mid 1750s when they wrote of  Indians using Javelina as a food source.  An "educated guess" would put Javelina first arriving in present-day Arizona in the mid-1700s. 

Texas archeological sites (between 300 B.C. to 1700 A.D) reveal evidence of Javelina (cook fire bone fragments) starting in early 1600 A. D., with significant numbers not appearing until the 1700s.

Besides finding suitable habitat, the greatest limiting factor for Javelina expansion into new areas in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and beyond, is climate.  Javelina have no under fur, so they cannot survive winter in a cold climate.


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Last modified: Wednesday July 11, 2012.