5 Facts About the Southwest’s Strangest, Smelliest Inhabitant – The Javelina
For many of us who grew up in the Southwest, javelinas — or properly known as peccaries —were a common sight. It wasn’t unusual to see a pack, often with babies in tow, crossing the street and disappearing into the brush. For those familiar with wildlife indigenous to the American Southwest and Central America, the javelina was as unexciting as a resident raccoon rummaging through the garbage.
But to others hailing from elsewhere, the peccary might as well be from a different planet: they’re not quite a pig, not quite a deer, with cloven hooves, long snout, wiry hair and are accompanied by a strange, musky odor.
Intrigued? Check out five facts about these one-of-a-kind creatures.
- They aren’t pigs, but they are distant cousins – While javelinas and pigs belong the same taxonomical order, they belong to separate families: peccaries are within the Tayassuidae family, while pigs are within the Sudae family.There are several characteristics that separate pigs from peccaries:- Javelinas have three toes on their back feet, while pigs have two.
– Their canine teeth differ; javelinas’ are straight while pigs’ are curved.
– Female javelinas usually give birth to twins (sometimes referred to as “reds” because of their gingery coat) who are almost immediately independent. Pigs, on the other hand, give birth to large litters of helpless piglets.
- They’re blind and have some serious B.O. – If javelinas could wear glasses, they probably would. Their eyesight is known to be terrible. This means they rely heavily on their keen sense of smell — which definitely makes up for the poor vision.Moreover, peccaries have a gland that releases a peculiar, musky odor, earning them the nickname “skunk pig” in some regions. They’re able to discern individuals in the pack by their unique scent. On the other hand, if they catch a whiff of an unfamiliar aroma — say, a group of sweaty hikers — they’ll alert each other to potential danger.
- The original plant-based diet – Peccaries tend to feed on shrubs, vegetation, nuts and seeds, using their snouts to forage in the underbrush. Their all-time favorite snack is juicy prickly pear, straight off the cactus. However, if given the opportunity, they’ve been known to also feed on dead birds or other small, already deceased rodents. Bon appetit!
- A mysterious giant peccary may be lurking in the Amazon – A giant peccary was allegedly discovered in 2000 in the Amazon rainforest, though its existence is unconfirmed. Scientists know very little about this species, besides the fact that it surpasses other types of peccary in both height and weight.
- Peccaries are inherently gentle — but don’t get between a mom and her babies – Javelinas are most likely more afraid of humans than we are of them, but they can be aggressive when they feel threatened — and they’re especially protective over the youngest members of the pack. Large groups of javelinas have been known to seriously injure or kill humans. We recommend keeping a safe distance to maintain peaceful coexistence.
Javelinas can be mischievous, don’t necessarily smell like roses and can present a threat to small dogs, so it’s understandable that some people don’t want packs of peccaries hanging out in their back yard. We discussed some ways to repel javelinas in this post.
But most times, javelinas are shy, timid and mind their own business. Unless you find yourself face-to-face with an Amazonian giant peccary, chances are they’ll wander off without causing too much trouble.