• Sierra del Carmen

    Big Bend

    National Park Texas


NPS Photo/Cookie Ballou

The collared peccary (Tayassu tajacu), commonly known as the javelina, is found as far south as Argentina and as far north as Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. Collared peccaries are in the even-toed, hoofed mammal order of Artiodactyla. Javelinas are mistaken for pigs, but they are in a different family than pigs. There are several differences between the two animals, which are detailed below

  • three toes on the hind foot
  • bones are fused in the foot
  • ulna and radius " lower arm bones" are fused
  • 38 teeth
  • canine teeth are straight
  • have scent glands
  • have complex stomach
  • lack a gall bladder
  • have a short tail
  • lack sweat glands
  • four toes on the hind foot
  • bones in the foot are not fused
  • ulna and radius are not fused
  • 34 or 44 teeth
  • canine teeth are curved
  • lack scent glands
  • have a simple stomach
  • gall bladder is present
  • have a long tail
  • have sweat glands

Javelinas thrive in a variety of habitats and are able to adapt easily to different areas within their territory. The javelina is a herbivore (plant eater) and frugivore (fruit eater). They eat wide variety of fruits, tubers, rhizomes, bulbs, acorns, grass, green shoots of annuals, stems of prickly pears, lupines, mesquite beans, and lechuguilla. They are also opportunistic and take animal matter as food when it is easily available or accidentally ingest it while foraging for other things. Succulent prickly pear pads make it possible for the javelina to survive until rainfall provides additional new annual food plants and water sources. Javelina will drink when water is available, but it is not essential if succulents are available.

Javelinas can breed any month of the year, but most births occur in May, June, or July, after a five-month gestation period. This may be to correspond with the summer rainy season. They first breed at about one year of age and only death or disease ends the ability to breed and bear young. Collared peccaries live in groups, but do not form long-term pair bonds. The female gives birth standing up and nurses the young for two months. The average litter size is two, but occasionally is as high as five. By six weeks of age the young are capable of eating solid food. By forty weeks, the young are full-grown. There is typically a 50% or higher mortality rate for the young.

Coyotes, bobcats, black bears, and mountain lions prey on javelinas. On average, they live 7.5 years in the wild. Herd size ranges from five to twenty seven animals, with an average of fourteen per herd in Big Bend National Park.

A typical day for a javelina in Big Bend begins at daylight when the herd gets up from the bedding site and feeds until mid-morning. Foods include lechuguilla, roots, prickly pear, seeds of woody plants, fruits, and forbs when available. The herd feeds by spreading out in a loosely knit group. As they day heats up the javelina seek shelter in cooler canyons, caves, and areas of dense shrub. They will feed again in late afternoon until dark. Feeding time increases in cooler months and resting time increases in the summer. Javelina may even feed at night during the hottest months. After feeding, the herd will bed down under rocky overhangs, in caves, and in shallow depressions with heavy brush cover. They will huddle together in a group for warmth and protection when bedding down.

Javelina hides were shipped east and to Europe for gloves and hairbrushes in the late 1800's and early 1900's. The hides were used as barter in many trading posts along the U.S.- Mexico border. Since the 1940's the javelina has been considered a sporting game animal in Texas. It provides a source of income for landowners and the State of Texas for the hunter's fee. In Big Bend National Park the javelina is protected. It is often seen in the campgrounds feeding and has been known to raid coolers and picnic tables when they are left unattended. The javelina is common in Big Bend and a welcome site to many visitors.

Informational Brochure
Javelina [364kb PDF File]
Learn more about one of Big Bend's most distinctive mammals. Legal-sized document.

Did You Know?

Golden eagle

In twelve years (1930-1942) preceding the establishment of Big Bend National Park, at the request of ranchers, an area game warden and a pilot trapped, shot, or poisoned 2,500 golden eagles. Today, the golden eagle, while a year-round resident, is rarely seen in the park. More...