Collared Peccary - Pig of the Desert

by Dave Hanks

I have always loved pigs. They are so intelligent and there is nothing cuter than a little pig. My father always had a few pigs around on his farm and my first years out of college, I worked on a hog farm. Being around swine can teach you a lot.

However, the pig mentioned above is of a different sort. It is a desert scrub species and in Spanish is known as the Javelina. It is smaller than our domestic hog at only 35 to 60 pounds. It seems strange that a small swine should have a longer (140-150 day) gestation period than our larger (3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days) domestic species.

It is the only Native American swine species. The razorback, found in the south and the University of Arkansas mascot, is also wild but sprang from domestic hogs (feral) that got loose. The Peccary runs in bands of six to a dozen. Like all hogs, it canít sweat and so must stay in close proximity to a water hole. However, stiff, bristly hair helps to defer heat by partially shading the skin.

Prickly Pear Cactus and Agaves (Century Plant) are a major part of their diet. The thorns on the cactus donít seem to bother them as they can eat around them. Also, the inside of the plant contains a lot of moisture Ė essential to a desert life style.

This pig has poor eye sight but compensates with excellent hearing. It is not threatening to humans unless cornered, at which time it can become very aggressive.

I had a stuffed Peccary in my high school Biology classroom, but it is always fascinating to meet this species, in real life, when ever we are in southern Arizona or Texas. Once, in Texas, my wife and I were strolling just slightly south of our campground looking for birds in the scrub. Carolyn, hearing a noise, turned to look. Slightly uphill from her, and almost nose to nose, was a Peccary. She went one way and the pig the other. A memorable experience for her!

(Against a flowery background)