peccary (pĕkˈərē) [key], small wild pig, genus Tayassu, the only pig native to the Americas. Although similar in appearance to Old World pigs, peccaries are classified in a family of their own because of anatomical differences. Peccaries have downward-curved tusks with which they fight ferociously when threatened. They have large heads and long snouts; both sexes have scent glands on the rump. There are two peccary species. The collared peccary, or javelina, Tayassu tajacu, is the more common, ranging from the SW United States to Argentina and inhabiting many types of country, from tropical swamps to dry scrub regions. It is about 20 in. (50 cm) high at the shoulder and weighs about 50 lb (23 kg); it has grizzled gray-black hair marked with a white neck band and an erectile mane on the neck. Collared peccaries move about in small family groups, eating roots, fruits, insects, worms, and reptiles. The white-lipped peccary, T. albirostris, is found in smaller numbers in forests from S Mexico to N Argentina. Reddish brown to black, with white lips and cheeks, it is somewhat larger than the collared peccary and more predacious in its habits. White-lipped peccaries move about in large herds foraging for food and hunting small mammals. Peccaries are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Artiodactyla, family Tayassuidae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.