Javelina or collared peccary

October 30, 1846
Last night about dusk, one of my men discovered a drove of wild hogs, and this morning, we started on their trail, but horse flesh had now become so precious that we could not afford to follow any distance from our direction, and although anxious to get a genuine specimen of this animal, we gave up the chase and dropped in the rear of the column. The average weight of these animals is about 100 pounds, and their color invariably light pepper and salt. Their flesh is said to be palatable, if the musk which lies near the back part of the spine is carefully removed.
from W. H. Emory's Notes of a Military Reconnoissance, published 1848

Javelina photo by John Shaver

Photo above courtesy of John Shaver, Sierra Vista, Arizona,
photo below, USFWS photo by Tom Stehn

Javelina, USFWS photo by Tom StehnIs it a pig or isn't it a pig? The collared peccary, called javelina or jabalina by the Spanish, is a New World animal exclusively and does not belong to the swine family which developed in Eurasia and spread across Europe. This New World animal is about three feet long, two feet high and salt-and-pepper grayish brown in color, with an erect mane of bristles along neck, shoulders and back and a marked "collar" at the shoulder line. The salt-and-pepper effect is caused by whitish bands on gray hair. In the winter the javelina's coat is very dark and dense and the collar is clearly visible. The javelina sheds hair in the summer and the summer coat is lighter in color with the collar frequently not visible. Javelina have lived as long as 24 years in captivity, but the average life span in the wild is probably about seven or eight years.
European wild boarThe European wild boar is the ancestor of most of our domestic pigs, and it was probably the animal the Spanish had in mind when they called the similar creatures that they found in the Americas jabalina (wild sow.) One may surmise they used the feminine form because the animals they saw on this side of the ocean were smaller and less ferocious-looking than the European wild boar. Band of javelina
Regardless of biological classification, the javelinas or peccaries are very much like pigs in appearance and diet. Like pigs they are omnivorous, eating mainly plant matter such as prickly pear fruit and acorns but also consuming insects, worms, eggs, reptiles, and even carrion. They travel in bands which can range in number from three to twenty individuals and live in desert scrub and grasslands and lowland woods, preferably near a water source. Javelina often remain hidden during the heat of the day, emerging in the mornings and evenings to feed.

Javelina mom with piglets

Newborn javelina weigh about a pound. The javelina mother doesn't lick the babies at birth as other mammals do, but rather rolls or tumbles them about. Shortly after birth the piglets are on their feet and able to follow their mother around; they are usually weaned by six weeks of age. The young, as shown above, are bright in color with reddish stripes. They assume adult coloration at three months and are sexually mature at ten months.

Javelina have a large range -- from Arizona and New Mexico as far south as Argentina. The Arizona Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that there are about 60,000 javelina in Arizona.

Resources:

Caras, Roger A. A Perfect Harmony: The Intertwining Lives of Animals and Humans throughout History. New York: Simon & Schuster, Co., 1996.

Jaeger, Edmund C. The North American Deserts. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1957.

Martin, Alexander M. et al. American Wildlife and Plants: A Guide to Wildlife Food Habits. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1951.

Soffer, Ruth. North American Desert Life. Dover Pictorial Archive Series. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1994.

Wild Animals: CD ROM and book. New York: Dover Publications, 2003.