, Port Arthur, Texas


June 10, 2009

Javelina: The pig that is not a pig

No animal is more symbolic of the arid regions of Texas than the collared peccary more commonly known as javelina. An animal enshrouded in mystery, these medium-sized mammals have a reputation that precedes them.

    For starters, they have an identity crisis. Lumped in with feral hogs as a species of swine, they are not pigs in the sense we think of pigs.

    According to biologists with Texas A&M; University at Kingsville, a “javelina is not a pig, a feral hog or a wild boar. Although similar in appearance to a pig, it is a collared peccary.”

    Both javelinas and pigs are members of the order artiodactyla and the suborder suiformes and share a common ancestry.  Due to key anatomical and genetic differences, however taxonomists placed them in separate families: javelina in tayassuidae and pigs in suidae.

    Texas A&M; Kingsville biologists said the confusion probably started as soon as European explorers arrived in the New World.

    “The javelina is native to the Western Hemisphere, while true pigs developed in the Eastern Hemisphere. Distinguishing characteristics include size. Javelinas are small and compact, weighing from 30 to 55 pounds, while adult feral hogs can reach 100 pounds or more.

    Javelinas are a grizzled brown and black with a white band of coarse hair, its ‘collar,’ around the neck. Feral hogs come in a variety of colors and combinations of colors. Less obvious differences include that the javelina has four-hoofed toes on its front feet, but only three-hoofed toes on the hind feet, where the outer dewclaw present on a pig is absent in javelinas. Javelinas also have shorter tails and their canine teeth or ‘tusks’ grow vertically rather than away from the face.”

    For years there has been a popular rumor going around that javelinas are actually rodents and there is another they are kin to raccoons but as you can see that is not true.

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