||The Mammals of Texas -
Artiodactyla : Family
Dicotylidae : Tayassu tajacu (Linnaeus)
Description. These piglike creatures are
characterized by presence of four-hoofed toes on the
front feet, but only three on the hind feet (outer
dewclaw absent); short, piglike snout; crushing molars;
nearly straight and daggerlike canines (tusks); harsh
pelage with distinct "mane" from crown to rump;
distinct musk gland on rump; two pairs of mammae,
inguinal in position; distinct whitish collar across
shoulder in adults, rest of upperparts grizzled black and
grayish, with dark dorsal stripe; young reddish to
yellowish brown, with black stripe down back. External
measurements average: total length, 870-1,016 mm; tail,
12 mm; hind foot, 210 mm; height at shoulder, 816 mm.
Dental formula: I 2/3, C 1/1, Pm 3/3, M 3/3 X 2 = 38.
Weight, 13-25 kg.
Distribution in Texas. Formerly north to
the Red River and east at least to the Brazos River
Valley. Now restricted to western Texas and the brush
country south of San Antonio.
Habits. In Texas, collared
peccaries (often called "javelinas") occupy the
brushy semidesert where prickly pear is a conspicuous
part of the flora. They are commonly found in dense
thickets of prickly pear, chaparral, scrub oak, or
guajillo; also in rocky canyons where caverns and hollows
afford protection and in barren wastelands. Peccaries are
active mainly in early morning and late afternoon and
often bed down in dense brush or prickly pear thickets
during the heat of midday.
They travel in bands ranging from a few
animals to several dozen and have a rather limited home
range. In the brush country of South Texas, for example,
marked individuals moved within home ranges varying in
size from 73 to 225 ha. Home ranges of adjacent peccary
herds may overlap slightly, but usually only one herd at
a time is found in this "border." The
boundaries of the home range are marked by scent emitted
from the conspicuous musk gland on the animals
rump, which also serves the individual in keeping contact
within the herd.
Legendary tales of the peccary have
caused inexperienced hunters to kill them through fear
rather than for either sport or food. Through exaggerated
tales of the peccarys ferociousness, it has been
charged that peccaries will kill or injure dogs and that
they are a menace to deer hunters in the dense brush. It
is true that encounters between peccaries and untrained
dogs usually end with dead or crippled dogs, but it is
also true that in these battles the dog is always the
aggressor, and any animal will defend its life to the
best of its ability when attacked. The peccary is
absolutely harmless to the range, to livestock, and to
Peccaries are chiefly herbivorous and
feed on various cacti, especially prickly pear, mesquite
beans, sotol, lechuguilla, and other succulent
vegetation. In areas where prickly pear is abundant,
peccaries seldom frequent water holes because these
plants provide both food and water. Contrary to the
habits of the common pig, peccaries rarely root in the
ground but rather, push around on the surface even
where the soil is very sandy and loose turning up
chunks of wood and cactus. Mast, fruits, and terrestrial
insects also are eaten.
The collared peccary is the only wild
ungulate of the western hemisphere with a year-round
breeding season. The number of young is usually two, but
litters range in size from one to five. The gestation
period is 142-149 days (5 months). At birth the young are
reddish or yellowish in color and weigh about 500 g. They
are able to follow the mother within a few days, at which
time the family joins with the rest of the herd. Young
females attain sexual maturity in 33-34 weeks; young
males, in 46-47 weeks.
In Texas, the peccary was hunted
commercially for its hide until 1939 when it was given
the status of a game animal. Perhaps a far greater value
is in its relationship to range vegetation as peccaries
are able to control (by eating) certain undesirable cacti
present on overstocked rangeland.
Photo credit: John L. Tveten.