by Dr. Wayne Lynch
February 21, 2019
Javelina Raise the Bristles on their Neck & Back When They Are Excited or Aggressive
This past holiday season, while on a magazine assignment, Aubrey and I explored the Chihuahuan Desert region of southern New Mexico. On Christmas Day I had the best gift a nature nerd like myself can get-a lengthy view of a critter that had been on my bucket list for nearly 40 years. The animal I spotted was a javelina (pronounced have-a-LEEN-ah), a wild piglike mammal that roams the deserts, chaparral and oak woodlands of the state in sociable herds of 8-30 individuals. For two days afterwards, I located the same herd of a dozen javelinas and managed to follow them through thickets for extended periods, often observing their behaviour from as near as two meters. I watched them playfully chase each other, nuzzle, scent mark, root for food, mutually groom, even court and mate. A week later in southern Arizona, I found another group of javelinas, this time in the deserts east of Tucson. The two instances were the most exciting mammal watching I have ever done in the American Southwest.
Javelina Winter Habitat in Southern Arizona
Javelinas occur from the southwestern USA southward through Mexico and Central America and range into South America as far as northern Argentina. Though piglike in appearance they actually belong to a separate group of hoofed mammals called peccaries, of which there are three different species. The javelina, the smallest of the trio (also known as the collared peccary because of the ring of light fur around its neck), is a stocky, short-legged animal weighing 40-60 lbs.
Adult Javelina Stand 50 cm (20“) at the Shoulder
Left: The Females in a Javelina Herd are Dominant over the Males Right: A Javelina Eating the Terminal Twigs of a Palo Verde Tree
Left: Javelinas Have a Simple Stomach Unlike the Complex Stomach of Ruminants Right: A Pair of Javelina Mutually Scent Mark Each Other
Left: Inhibited Neck Biting is a Common Courtship Behavior Right: Mating Javelinas Usually Stay Coupled for Several Minutes.
Javelinas have a musky-smelling scent gland on their lower back. The gland helps members of a herd acquire a distinctive group odour. The animals achieve this by frequently participating in mutual rubbing sessions where they stand side by side, facing in opposite directions with their sides touching while each vigorously rubs the side of its head against the other’s hindquarters and scent gland. Sometimes males and females rub each other, sometimes both are males, and sometimes both are females. Javelinas also use their scent gland to mark the boundaries of the herd’s territory, rubbing the oily musk on rocks, shrubs and trees.
A Male Javelina Sniffs the Rump of a Female & Tongue Flicks
Mating Javelinas. Mating Javelinas Usually Stay Coupled for Several Minutes
Six-Month Old Javelina Piglet
Javelinas Most Commonly Raise Two Offspring
Javelina Winter Habitat in Southwest New Mexico
Javelinas are primarily vegetarians eating roots, seeds, grasses, and fruits. They are especially fond of prickly pear cacti, and eat the plants’ flowers, fruits and fleshy pads seemingly oblivious to the cacti’s sharp protective spines.
Adult Javelina Eyeing the Photographer
Bio: Dr. Lynch is a popular guest lecturer and an award-winning science writer. His books cover a wide range of subjects, including: the biology and behaviour of owls, penguins and northern bears; arctic, boreal and grassland ecology; and the lives of prairie birds and mountain wildlife. He is a fellow of the internationally recognized Explorers Club - a select group of scientists, eminent explorers and distinguished persons, noteworthy for their contributions to world knowledge and exploration. He is also an elected Fellow of the prestigious Arctic Institute of North America.
Dr. Wayne Lynch
3779 Springbank Drive S. W.
Calgary, AB, T3H J5
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