The Collared Peccary (a.k.a Javelina, Musk Hog or Tayaussa) is the only wild pig-like animal in North America. Found primarily in the Chihuahuan and Sonoran Deserts of the American southwest and throughout Central / South America, the Peccary is most often called the Javelina which means "spear" in Spanish (referring to its long and razor sharp tusks).
Unlike pigs, the Javelina belong to the Tayassuidae family while pigs belong to the Suidae family. The differences between the two lay in their anatomical differences. Javelina are generally smaller than pigs, but most notably have only 3 toes on their hind hoof, as opposed to 4 toes on a pig's hind foot. While a seemingly benign creature to encounter, the Javelina can be quite territorial and has been known to charge humans. With poor eye sight, but terrific hearing, their primary method of defense is their tusks which they use effectively if attacked. To warn potential predators, they will snap their jaws to make a loud clacking noise, huff and even false charge. Herds of Javelina can easily scare off a single Coyote or Bobcat. Common predators include the Cougar, Bobcat, Coyote and in Central / South America, the Jaguar.
Javelina most regularly travel in family groups (between 5 - 20 animals) and can be a formidable bunch when working together in defense of their offspring or their own lives. As with most desert mammals, they are active during the early morning and late evening when the temperatures are more moderate. When not active, they stay in the shade of desert brush to conserve energy because they are unable to evaporate moisture through panting of the mouth.
Javelina range in weight from 30-60 pounds and can reach two feet in height from hoof to shoulder. The length of a Javelina can exceed 4' - 5' including its tail. They can live over a decade long in the wild and even longer in captivity. Unlike the pot-bellied pig and contrary to popular belief, Javelina do not make good pets and can be both unpredictable and dangerous if kept in a home.
While mostly a herbivore eating grasses and roots, the Javelina will eat reptiles, and if desperate will chew on a larger mammal's kill. Their primary and favorite food staple, however, is the Prickly Pear Cactus. The jaws of a Javelina have evolved and hardened to the point that they can eat Prickly Pear Cactus, spines and all, with no ill-effect. Although, the Javelina tend to stay near reliable water sources, they get most of their water intake from the Prickly Pear Cactus itself. The social structure of a Javelina group starts with the largest dominant male who controls the herd, and then is determined mostly by size. If you've ever seen a group of Javelina traveling in a single file line, you'll notice that the first animal is the largest and the last animal is usually the smallest.
Females will give birth to 2-3 young after a gestation period of around 140 - 150 days. Mating and birthing can occur at any time but primarily take place during the rainy season in order to have water available for the newborns. Javelina are becoming less prevalent due to recent droughts in the American southwest but these animals of some of the most resilient desert creatures around. In general, Javelina are highly adaptable and can withstand some of the harshest desert conditions in the world.