| The peccaries (also known by its Spanish name, javelina) are medium-sized mammals of the family Tayassuidae. Peccaries are members of the Artiodactyls (even-toed ungulants) 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 3 to 4 feet, and a full-grown adult usually weighs between about 44 to 88 pounds.|
People often confuse peccaries, with pigs that originated in the Old World, 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.
One of the ways to tell apart the two groups is the shape of the canine tooth, or tusk. In the Old World pigs the tusk is long and curves around on itself, whereas in the New World peccaries the tusk is short and straight.
Peccaries use their tusks for defense; they feed chiefly on roots and grasses but also eat invertebrates and small vertebrates.
By rubbing the tusks together they can make a chattering noise that warns potential predators to not get too close.
Peccaries, indeed, are aggressive enough in temperament that, unlike Eurasia's pigs, they cannot be domesticated as they are likely to injure humans.
Today there are three living species of peccary, one of which is found from the southwestern United States through Central America and into South America.
The Collared Peccary (Tayassu tajacu) occurs from the southwestern United States into South America. They are often found in dry arid habitats (much like the state of Arizona's).
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 relatively large 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 close.
Modern peccaries are social animals and often form herds, collared peccaries usually form smaller groups. Such social behavior seems to have been the situation in extinct peccaries as well.
Peccaries have scent glands below each eye and another on their back. They use the scent to mark herd territories from 75 to 700 acres. They also mark other herd members with these scent glands by rubbing one another to establish a herd scent. The pungent odor allows peccaries to recognize other members of the herd despite their poor eyesight.
Peccaries have a long history in North America. They first appear in the early Oligocene, about 32 million years ago, and a variety of different species are present in faunas of different ages across the continent. Some of these extinct peccaries have been found at John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in Oregon and at Badlands National Monument in South Dakota.
Although they are common in South America today, peccaries did not reach that continent until about nine million years ago, 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.
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