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I am Not a Pig Javelinas and Peccaries of the Southwestern Desert

Updated on March 4, 2014
mactavers profile image

I've lived in Arizona for 65 years (Tucson, Glendale, and Sedona). I love writing about Arizona history, antiques, collectibles, and travel.

Great Resource on Javelinas

Part of the Look West Series
Part of the Look West Series | Source

Javelinas and Peccaries are NOT Pigs

Collard Peccaries, commonly called Javelinas are often called Javelina pigs, but they are not pigs. Javelina is pronounced Have-a-lean-a. In historical materials, I've also seen the spelling of Havalina. I've often heard Javelinas called wild boars, or giant rodents, but they are actually a mammal classified in the Artiodactyla family, the same classification as deer. Javelinas which may "appear" as a hairy pigs can be found in regions of the Southwestern deserts and parts of Mexico and South America. Also, there are varieties of Javelina such as the White Lipped Javelina that live in the jungles and rain forests in South America. It is believed that the Javelina evolved from a much larger mammal that existed millions of years ago during the Ice Age. They migrated slowly over time into the Southwestern region of North America. The myth that they are solely a Southwestern desert mammal is just that: another myth.

I have to admit that javelinas have become a symbol of the Southwest. In our area (Sedona Arizona) is Javelina Leap Wine, the Javelina Cantina and a favorite book of our children is the Three Javelinas instead of the Three Bears.

Female Javelinas are called sows and males are called boars. Boars are larger than females and grow to about two ft. tall and about 3 ft. long. Males can weigh up to fifty pounds. Their hair is brown to almost black and their bristle hairs are light in color almost like looking at porcupine quills. Their legs are seemingly small in comparison to their bodies and they have hoofed feet. While their coats are darker and heavier in the winter months, Javelinas can't survive in cold climates. For example, here in Arizona, Javelinas roam freely in Sedona and areas south of Sedona. But just 28 miles to the north of us in Flagstaff which is pine forest with more snowfall during winters, Javelinas are not normally found.

Javelina Enclosure in Berizona Williams AZ

Javelina Enclosure in Berizona Animal Park in Williams Arizona
Javelina Enclosure in Berizona Animal Park in Williams Arizona | Source

Javelinas on Parade Sedona Arizona

Artist decorated Pink Javalinas for the Pink Jeep Rides Company of Sedona.
Artist decorated Pink Javalinas for the Pink Jeep Rides Company of Sedona. | Source

Habits of the Javelina

Javelinas produce young throughout the year, whenever food is plentiful. Unlike pigs which can produce large liters, Javelinas only have one or two babies. All members of a family will defend the young. They have strong scent glands located on their backs that produce a strong foul smell that lingers in the air long after they have actually passed by. Since they are herd animals, most often they travel in a pack. Their eyesight isn't great, so they identify other herd members by smell. They are also very territorial and mark their territory by rubbing their scent on trees, bushes cacti and other objects, such as dogs and other animals do. It is estimated that a Javelina will generally live about seven years and will die within a square mile of his birth, unless forced elsewhere. We often see them in the early morning, at dusk and at night. They come from the same direction in the mornings and return to that direction in late afternoons. They are also territorial about where they have found food, and tend to return to the same place. Flower bulbs are often called Javelina "candy" by my neighbors, although again they are selective in which bulbs they will not eat such as iris bulbs. Javelinas delight in the prickly pear fruit and the spines on the fruit don't seem to bother them. Other fruits, grasses, flowers, seeds, roots and cactus are their main food sources. They will also eat bugs and grubs. Javelinas can kill snakes, lizards and other small mammals with their razor sharp teeth; however, often they will not eat them. While cats and small dogs can be attacked by a Javelina if they are perceived as a threat, it is not their intent to view them as a source of food. Like bears in some areas, javelinas love to tip garbage cans to root through garbage. They seem to be able to communicate through grunts and squeals. Usually the large males lead the herd.

Since Arizona has a javelina population of 60,000 plus, they can be hunted during the month of February by permit and tag. Beside humans, javelinas are hunted by bobcats, mountain lions, and coyotes. Young javelinas are prey for foxes and large birds of prey. No matter how many times people are asked NOT to feed them scraps, often people continue to do so. To keep our fragile environment in balance, javelinas must be allowed to remain wild.

Sonoran Desert near Tucson Arizona

Javelina at home in the Sonoran Desert near Tucson
Javelina at home in the Sonoran Desert near Tucson | Source


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    • mactavers profile image

      mactavers 4 years ago

      Thanks Phoebe. They truly are one of those animals that are so ugly that they are cute.

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      Phoebe Pike 4 years ago

      A very useful and informative hub. Even though they aren't pigs they are pretty cute.