AskDefine | Define peccary

Dictionary Definition

peccary n : nocturnal gregarious pig-like wild animals of North America and South America [syn: musk hog]

User Contributed Dictionary

see Peccary



  1. A family (Tayassuidae) of mammals from the Americas related to pigs and hippos


, queixada


  • javelina (Southwest US, from Mexican Spanish 'jabalina)

Extensive Definition

Peccaries (also known as javelinas and by the Portuguese and Spanish name javali or Spanish pecarí) are medium-sized mammals of the family Tayassuidae. Peccaries are members of the Artiodactyl suborder Suina as are swine Suidae and hippopotami Hippopotamidae. They are found in the southwestern area of North America and throughout Central and South America. Peccaries usually measure between 90 and 130 cm in length (3 to 4 feet), and a full-grown adult usually weighs between about 20 and 40 kilograms (44 to 88 pounds).
People often confuse peccaries, which are found in the Americas, with pigs which originated in Afro-Eurasia, especially since some domestic pigs brought by European settlers have escaped over the years and now run wild in many parts of the United States. These feral pigs are popularly known as razorback hogs.


Peccaries are medium-sized animals, with a strong superficial resemblance to pigs. Like pigs, they have a snout ending in a cartilagenous disc, and eyes that are small relative to their head. Also like pigs, they use only the middle two digits for walking, although, unlike pigs, the other toes may be altogether absent. Their stomach is non-ruminating, although it has three chambers, and is more complex than that of pigs.
Peccaries are omnivorous, and will eat small animals, although their preferred food consists of roots, grass, seeds, and fruit. One of the ways to tell apart pigs and peccaries is the shape of the canine tooth, or tusk. In European pigs the tusk is long and curves around on itself, whereas in peccaries, the tusk is short and straight. The jaws and tusks of peccaries are adapted for crushing hard seeds and slicing into plant roots
Peccaries are social animals, and often form herds. Over 100 individuals have been recorded for a single herd of white-lipped peccaries, but collared and Chacoan peccaries usually form smaller groups. Such social behavior seems to have been the situation in extinct peccaries as well.
Peccaries, with the exception of Pecari maximus, have scent glands below each eye and another on their back. They use the scent to mark herd territories, which range from 75 to 700 acres. They also mark other herd members with these scent glands by rubbing one against another. The pungent odor allows peccaries to recognize other members of the herd, despite their poor eyesight.


Today there are four living species of peccary, found from the southwestern United States through Central America and into South America and Trinidad.
The Collared Peccary (Pecari tajacu) occurs from the southwestern United States into South America and the island of Trinidad. They are found in all kinds of habitats, from dry arid scrublands to humid tropical rainforests. They are sometimes called the "musk hog" because of their strong odor. In some areas of the southwestern United States they have become habituated to human beings and live in relative harmony with them in such areas as the suburbs of cities where there are still areas of brush and undergrowth to move through. They are generally found in squadrons of eight to 15 animals of various ages. They will defend themselves if they feel threatened but otherwise tend to ignore human beings. They defend themselves with their long tusks, which sharpen themselves whenever the mouth opens or closes.
Throughout the states of Arizona and New Mexico, collared pecarries are known as 'javelinas'. They are often seen around people's houses, with herds of them sometimes seen walking across driveways or porches. In some neighborhoods, they even live in backyards.
A second species is the White-lipped peccary (Tayassu pecari), which is found in the rainforests of Central and South America.
The third species, the Chacoan peccary (Catagonus wagneri), is the closest living relative to the extinct Platygonus pearcei. It is found in the dry shrub habitat or Chaco of Paraguay, Bolivia, Argentina and Southern Brazil. The Chacoan peccary has the unusual distinction of having been first described based on fossils and was originally thought to be only an extinct species. In 1975 the animal was discovered to still be alive and well in the Chaco region of Paraguay. The species was well known to the native people.
A fourth species, the Giant Peccary (Pecari maximus) was recently discovered in the Brazillian Amazon by Dutch biologist Marc van Roosmalen. Though recently discovered by science it has been known to the local Tupi people as Caitetu Munde, which means "great peccary which lives in pairs." It is thought to be the largest extant peccary, and can grow to 1.2 meters in length. Its fur is completely dark gray, with no collars whatsoever. Unlike other peccaries it lives in pairs, or with one or two offspring.


Peccaries first appeared in the fossil records of Late Eocene or Early Oligocene in Europe, since then it's fossils have been found in all continents except Australia and Antarctica. It became extinct in the Old World after Miocene.
Although they are common in South America today, peccaries did not reach that continent until about three million years ago during the Great American Interchange, when the Isthmus of Panama formed, connecting North America and South America. At that time, many North American animals — including peccaries, llamas and tapirs — entered South America, while some South American species, such as the ground sloths, migrated north.href="">
One species, the Chacoan Peccary, had been known only from fossil records until a surviving population was discovered in 1975.

Peccaries in Popular Culture

One song on Frank Zappa's "Studio Tan" album is about "Greggery Peccary", a "little pig" who invents the calendar.
Episode 30, "Bully Up A Tree", of Davey and Goliath featured a bully who was chased up a tree by a peccary, and then rescued by the dog Goliath, whom he had teased earlier.
A stuffed Javelina is seen in the movie The Royal Tenenbaums.
The javelina is the official mascot of Texas A&M University-Kingsville (formerly Texas A&I University), in Kingsville, Texas as well as Crystal City High School.
On the television show Survivorman, in the Sonoran Desert episode, Les Stroud warns about the peccary and also has several shots of the animal. They are also mentioned in the Costa Rica episode.
On the June 11th episode of Pardon the Interruption, Tony Kornheiser said he would have preferred to see Chad Johnson race a javelina rather than a horse.
In the song "Point of Extinction" on Motion City Soundtrack's album 'Even If It Kills Me', the opening lyrics are: "Are you listening, javelina?"
One of Peoria's Arizona Fall League teams' mascot is the Javelinas.


peccary in Guarani: Tajykatĩ
peccary in Czech: Pekariovití
peccary in German: Nabelschweine
peccary in Spanish: Tayassuidae
peccary in French: Tayassuidae
peccary in Ido: Pekario
peccary in Italian: Tayassuidae
peccary in Hebrew: פקאריים
peccary in Lithuanian: Pekariniai
peccary in Hungarian: Pekarifélék
peccary in Dutch: Pekari's
peccary in Japanese: ペッカリー
peccary in Norwegian: Navlesvin
peccary in Polish: Pekari
peccary in Portuguese: Tayassuidae
peccary in Quechua: Wankana
peccary in Russian: Пекариевые
peccary in Swedish: Navelsvin
peccary in Turkish: Pekari
peccary in Chinese: 西猯科
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