Natural Histories

photograph of a Sunda Pangolin


Tayassuidae pecari


A peccary is a medium sized, pig-like animal found in the southwestern United States and south into central Argentina and the Pacific coast of South America. Peccaries have coarse gray to brown fur with white/yellowish fur on the chest (can also be on the back or face). Young peccaries appear different from the adults because they have red, brown, black and cream combinations in their fur with white fur on their legs and under their neck. Peccaries have a pig-like appearance with a long snout, thick neck, tiny tail, thin short legs. Similar to pigs, they have a cartilaginous disk and terminal nostrils. The feet are paraxonic; meaning the median digits of the forefeet and hind feet are the only functional digits. The third and fourth metapodials are fused. There are two large hoofed toes and two small hoofed toes on the forefeet. Their hind feet of peccaries have two large hoofed toes and one small hoofed toe. The upper canine teeth of the peccary grow into a downward directed tusk (smaller than that of a suid and suid tusks tend to be laterally directed or upward). These canines wear into a sharp, cutting edge and form a lump under the lips. Males have larger canines while females have larger braincase.


Peccaries live in a variety of habitats including desert scrublands, arid woodlands, and rain forests. They use natural shelters such as thickets, limestone caves, and large boulders. This species tends to live close to a water source. Peccaries are nomadic, always moving in search of food and water. The home range of this species can be between 60 and 200 square kilometers.

Feeding Behavior and Diet

Peccaries forage during the day feeding on wide variety of plant and animal materials. They consume mostly fruit, leaves, roots, seeds, mushrooms and insects, occasionally eating small vertebrates (frogs, snakes, lizards, bird eggs, and turtles).


Peccaries breed year round with breeding seasons varying among subspecies. In herds females tend to dominate the males. Females produce litters of 1-4 young 156-162 days after mating. Litters usually result in twins or triplets. Newborns can run within a few hours of birth. They reach sexual maturity after 548 days and can live in the wild for about 13 years.

Months and Times of Activity

Peccaries are active both day and night, foraging for food during the day but they are primarily nocturnal. Peccaries are nomadic and they are gregarious; meaning they live in groups.  These groups can range from a few individuals to several hundred. They make low vocalizations and teeth clatters to communicate. They use mud wallows (like pigs) and also leave the ground pocked and churned wherever they have foraged.

Special Features, Stories, Relationships

•    There are fossil records indicating peccaries roamed all continents in the Oligocene (37-24 Ma) period, except in Australia and Antarctica.
•    Peccaries have scent glands on their rump to use in social communication.
•    This species has two or three chambered stomachs that are non-ruminating, suids/ pigs have ruminating stomachs.
•    They groom each other by rubbing their heads on the scent glands located on the hindquarters of another peccary.
•    To read folklore of the peccary go to;
•    Children’s book featuring  peccary: Collared Peccary: Cactus Eater (America’s Hidden Animal Treasures) by Stephen Person


 Csomos, R. 2001. "Tayassu pecari" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed November 04, 2014 at