Peccaries look like pigs and are closely related to pigs, but also closely related to the hippopotamus. The peccary’s coat is bristly, colored grey or grizzled black, with a yellowish or white band or “collar” across the shoulders and neck. Its head is triangular, with short ears, small eyes, and a pointed snout with large teeth. The peccary has a keen sense of smell and hearing but poor eyesight. They can run up to 21 miles per hour. Peccaries live in herds that provide defense against their main predators: jaguars, pumas, and coyotes. The peccary’s tusks are razor-sharp and capable of inflicting serious or fatal wounds.
The peccary can have a litter size of between 1 and 5 and their gestation period is between 141 and 151 days. The mother secludes herself when giving birth, and then rejoins the herd within a few days. The young nurse for 2 to 3 months, and mature around one year. Only one dominant male is allowed to breed with the females. Older sisters of the new babies will help in caring for their siblings. Family groups of up to 20 members stay together, and do not allow outsiders to join. Some members will leave the group at maturity to form new herds. Peccaries live in herds composed of large family groups. Members of the herd are quite vocal and communicate mainly by sounds including snorts, squeals, barks, grunts and growls. Herds are formed from close social groups with complex relationships. Family territories overlap, often sharing water sources and mud wallows. Members visit communal defecation sites along edges of territories, which serve as scent markers. South American natives have kept young peccaries as pets or as a food source for thousands of years. Peccaries are sometimes called “musk hogs” because of their strong odor from scent glands.
Collared Peccary at the Potawatomi Zoo: Male: Spike, Females: Tatum and Adobe