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Collared Peccary

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Collared Peccary

Pecari tajacu

Last updated: April 10, 2022
Verified by: IMP
Image Credit Dennis W Donohue/Shutterstock.com

Form bands of up to 12 individuals!

Collared Peccary Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Mammalia
Order
Atriodactyla
Family
Tayassuidae
Genus
Pecari
Scientific Name
Pecari tajacu

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Collared Peccary Conservation Status

Collared Peccary Locations

Collared Peccary Locations


Collared Peccary Facts

Main Prey
Insects and small lizards
Habitat
Deserts and Tropical Rainforests
Predators
Coyotes, Mountain Lions and Jaguars
Diet
Omnivore
Average Litter Size
3
Lifestyle
  • Bands of 6-12
Favorite Food
Succulent Vegetation
Type
Mammal
Slogan
Form bands of up to 12 individuals!

Collared Peccary Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Dark Grey
Skin Type
Bristled hairs
Lifespan
10 years
Weight
9kg – 27kg (20lbs- 60lbs)

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The collared peccary (also called a musk hog or javelina) is commonly mistaken for a pig or boar.

But despite their similar appearances, the peccary is not a true pig in any sense of the word. Because of the differences in the skeleton, teeth, and stomach, they belong to entirely different families. This species is endemic to the warm and tropical regions of the Americas, where it’s thriving as one of the most common mammals.

4 Incredible Collared Peccary Facts!

  • Peccaries walk on the middle two toes of the foot. The other toes are greatly reduced dewclaws (like dogs) located higher on the leg.
  • Peccaries evolved some 30 million years ago from pig-like ancestors in Europe. They then spread out to every other continent except for Australia and Antarctica. The facts suggest that they have been extinct from the Old World for some time, but they reached their current home in the Americas some three million years ago.
  • Collared peccaries are hunted, kept as pets, and even raised on farms. This interaction with humans probably stretches back since people first arrived in the Americas. The Mayans were known for keeping herds of peccaries to use them for rituals and food.
  • Collared peccaries trample and dig out the soil to create cool mud wallows, especially when nearby sources of water have dried out. These wallows become distinct ecosystems for frogs and other semi-aquatic animals.

Collared Peccary Scientific Name

The scientific name of the collared peccary is Pecari tajacu. Both Pecari and peccary derive from the South American language of Carib. The pronunciation of both terms is peck-uh-ree. Tajacu appears to be the Portuguese term for the species. There are three currently recognized species of peccaries, all of which are classified within the family of Tayassuidae (or javelinas), including the Chacoan peccary and the white-lipped peccary.

In 2007, some taxonomists also recognized a fourth species, Pecari maximus, or the giant peccary, but the wider scientific consensus is that it’s a member of the collared peccary species. Apart from this exception, the collared peccary is considered to be the only living member of its genus.

Collared Peccary Appearance

The peccary bears a striking resemblance to a wild boar. It has a large, angular head, a circular snout, small ears, a barely visible tail, and huge canines (which do not protrude from the lips). The coarse fur has a dark brown color with a light brown or white lining that extends like a collar from the lower jaw to the back (hence the name of the species).

The teeth are one of the main distinguishing factors between the pig and the peccary. The latter has vertical canines that grow straight up or down rather than the curved canines of boars. These canines lock together to stabilize the jaw and improve the force of the bite. Although this dental arrangement limits the chewing to a simple up and down motion, it also allows the peccary to exert enough force to crack open the exceptionally tough shell of a palm nut.



The collared peccary is the smallest of all peccary species, measuring less than 3 feet long from head to tail and 12 to 20 inches at shoulder height and weighing between 37 and 66 pounds on average. The largest members of this species grow to some 93 pounds and 3.5 feet. This is about the size of a medium to large dog breed.

Collared Peccary at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska

Cburnett / Creative Commons

Collared Peccary Behavior

The collared peccary’s social life revolves around very close and cohesive herds consisting of five to 15 individuals (though sometimes up to 50). These herds exhibit standard hierarchical behavior with a dominant male at the top and the rest of the ranking determined by size. Except when they break up into smaller foraging groups, the facts suggest that these herds are fairly stable units. The hierarchy doesn’t change much, and they rarely accept new members. This species is most active during the day, but feeding and foraging times shift more toward nighttime in the summer to deal with the oppressive heat.

Each group covers a massive territory sometimes reaching over 1,000 hectares in size (a single hectare is equivalent to 10,000 square meters). Both males and females will defend the territory with aggressive displays such as squaring off, flattening their ears and chattering with their canines. A fight is a vicious affair that can cause serious injury due to full body contact or bites.

Collared peccaries exhibit some of the same traits as a pig. They wallow in mud to cool down, have excellent swimming capabilities, and find food buried in the soil with their amazing sense of smell. In fact, smell is the main means of communicating with each other and obtaining sensory information. Collared peccaries give off a strong musky odor through a gland on their back (hence the name musk hog). The scent is then rubbed on rocks, trees, and stumps to mark their territory. It’s also used to identify other members of the group. This compensates for their small eyes and relatively poor sight.

Touch is another important aspect of their communication. They will rub their bodies against each other and exchange scents, groom other members of the herd, and lay in close proximity while sleeping. Grunts, woofs, and barks are all part of their communication repertoire as well.

Unlike many other hoofed animals (including pigs), the collared peccary lacks a ruminating stomach that allows it to ferment plant material to break it down. Instead, this species has a more complex three-chambered stomach for digesting tough plant matter. The peccary stomach is actually more efficient than the stomach of the closely related pig.

Collared peccaries are also fairly intelligent creatures with a rich emotional life. A series of videos captured in central Arizona as part of a school science fair project shows a herd appearing to grieve over the death of a fellow member. Over a period of 10 days, the herd repeatedly returned to the corpse, slept beside it, and chased away coyotes from it. This was the first report of collared peccaries engaging in such behavior, but it is highly suggestive. The depth of their interactions with the dead body probably couldn’t be explained by curiosity alone.

Collared Peccary Habitat

The collared peccary occupies a massive unbroken range that extends from the Southern United States (as far north as Phoenix and Tucson) down to Argentina. The only Caribbean islands where it’s endemic are Trinidad and Tobago, but it has been introduced into several others. This species occurs in a variety of different habits: tropical rainforests, shrublands, grasslands, swamplands, and mesquite deserts with prickly pear cacti. It has also adapted to life in residential human neighborhoods.

Collared Peccary Diet and Predators

The peccary serves as an important intermediary part of the local ecosystem. It transfers nutrients and resources between plant matter and small prey at the bottom of the food chain and apex predators at the top. They also play an important though inadvertent role in dispersing seeds throughout the ecosystem. As small seeds pass through their digestive tract and the rest are spit out, new plants are created across their entire territory.

What does the collared peccary eat?

The collared peccary has a very wide palate that encompasses both meat and plants, but the bulk of its diet consists of roots, bulbs, beans, nuts, berries, fungi, grass, and cacti. They sometimes supplement the diet with calcium, sodium, chlorine, and magnesium from naturally occurring mineral licks.

The exact composition depends on the nature of its habitat. In the southern part of the range, the collared peccary is more likely to consume meat from snakes, fish, frogs, eggs, and carrion. In deserts, the agaves and prickly pears are the most prized foods because of their high water content. In rainforests, the diet is largely fruit-based. One study estimated that the collared peccaries of Peru consumed some 128 different plant species.

What eats the collared peccary?

Apex carnivores such as pumas, coyotes, jaguars, and bobcats are the main predators of the collared peccary. Humans have also traditionally hunted this species for food and hide dating back thousands of years.

Collared Peccary Reproduction, Babies, and Lifespan

Collared peccaries have no set mating season. They are free to breed at any time of the year based on climate and rainfall. The dominant male jealously guards all breeding rights with the females of the herd. The lesser males have no breeding rights themselves, but unlike many other hierarchical species, they stay within the herd for the entire year instead of forming their own all-male bachelor groups.

After a gestation period of around five to six months, the female peccary leaves the herd to give birth alone. She produces one to three, but rarely four, offspring at a time. Weighing no more than 1 to 1.5 pounds, these newborn are dependent on the mother and her older sisters. The rest of the herd is not trusted with the young.

Peccaries develop rapidly over a short period of time. The young is fully weaned off its mother’s milk at two to three months of age. Females reach sexual maturity between eight and 14 months, while males reach sexual maturity at a more consistent 11 months. Tropical peccaries tend to give birth more often than the desert-based peccaries, possibly due to the abundance and availability of resources. The life expectancy of this species is some 24 years in the wild, but many fall victim to predators before they die of old age. In captivity, where they are free from predators and most diseases, some peccaries exceed 30 years of age.

Collared Peccary Population

Precise population estimates are hard to come by, but the IUCN Red List currently considers the collared peccary to be a species of least concern with stable population numbers. Some local populations in Central America and the Amazon may be threatened due to the destruction of the rainforests. But because the species is so adaptable, it can live in a wide range of different habitats, even among humans.

Collared Peccary in the Zoo

The collared peccary is a prime exhibit at the Happy Hollow Park and Zoo in San Jose, the Potawatomi Zoo in South Bend, the GarLyn Zoo in Naubinway, Michigan, and the Phoenix Zoo. In Canada, this species can be found at the Greater Vancouver Zoo.

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Collared Peccary FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

How big is a collared peccary?

The collared peccary measures less than 3 feet long and weighs between 37 and 66 pounds on average.

What is another name for the collared peccary?

The collared peccary goes by many different names, including musk hogs, saino, and baquiro. On the island of Trinidad, it is called a quenk. Peccaries as a family are alternatively known as javelina, the Spanish term for a boar. The pronunciation of this is ha-veh-lee-na.

Is a collared peccary a pig?

No, despite their similarities, they actually belong to different taxonomical families. Pigs and boars belong to the family of Suidae, while the peccaries belong to the family of Tayassuidae. Some taxonomists consider these families to be very closely related, but there are some key differences between them. The peccary has a different skeletal structure and dental arrangement. Some toes are reduced or absent. And it lacks the ruminating stomach of pigs and boars.

Are peccaries dangerous?

Attacks on humans are very rare, but due to their size and power, a peccary can cause serious injury to a person. It is not a good idea to approach a peccary, let alone an entire herd of them.

Are peccaries rodents?

Peccaries are not related to rodents at all (besides the fact that both are mammals). This species actually belongs to the order of Artiodactyla. Consisting of all even-toed hoofed animals, this order has a pronunciation of ar-tee-oh-dak-ti-luh. Members of include domesticated cattle, giraffes, buffaloes, hippos, and goats. Rodents occupy their own separate order.

Are Collared Peccaries herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores?

Collared Peccaries are Omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and other animals.

What Kingdom do Collared Peccaries belong to?

Collared Peccaries belong to the Kingdom Animalia.

What class do Collared Peccaries belong to?

Collared Peccaries belong to the class Mammalia.

What phylum to Collared Peccaries belong to?

Collared Peccaries belong to the phylum Chordata.

What family do Collared Peccaries belong to?

Collared Peccaries belong to the family Tayassuidae.

What order do Collared Peccaries belong to?

Collared Peccaries belong to the order Atriodactyla.

What genus do Collared Peccaries belong to?

Collared Peccaries belong to the genus Pecari.

What type of covering do Collared Peccaries have?

Collared Peccaries are covered in Bristled hairs.

In what type of habitat do Collared Peccaries live?

Collared Peccaries live in deserts and tropical rainforests.

What is the main prey for Collared Peccaries?

Collared Peccaries prey on insects and small lizards.

What are some predators of Collared Peccaries?

Predators of Collared Peccaries include coyotes, mountain lions, and jaguars.

How many babies do Collared Peccaries have?

The average number of babies a Collared Peccary has is 3.

What is an interesting fact about Collared Peccaries?

Collared Peccaries form bands of up to 12 individuals!

What is the scientific name for the Collared Peccary?

The scientific name for the Collared Peccary is Pecari tajacu.

What is the lifespan of a Collared Peccary?

Collared Peccaries can live for 10 years.

How to say Collared Peccary in …
English

Collared Peccary

Dutch

Halsbandpekari

Portuguese

Caititu, Cateto

Sources
  1. Britannica, Available here: https://www.britannica.com/animal/peccary
  2. Animal Diversity Web, Available here: https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Pecari_tajacu/
  3. San Diego Zoo, Available here: https://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/peccary

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