Javelina are indigenous feral pigs of the south-western United States.
This shy and diminutive creature was initially categorized as a type of pig, then reclassified as a cloven-hoofed ungulate. Javelina superficially resemble a scaled-down version of the renowned capybara of South America. However, capybara belongs to order Rodentia. Unlike capybara, the javelina is NOT a rodent.
Happily, javelina were restored to their prior classification, as a type of piggy. (Ungulate no longer holds any taxonomic meaning, after lengthy debate by evolutionary biologists). According to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), the taxonomy of javelina is:
- class Mammalia,
- order Artiodactyla,
- family and genus Tayassuidae
Another name for the javelina is collared peccary. This term has been in continuous use since the 18th century, particularly in English-speaking regions of the south-eastern United States and Caribbean Islands. While javelinas is acceptable for more than one, javelina is standard English usage for both singular and plural forms.
In the ecosystem
Javelina were a food source during the 17th – 19th centuries (and before, probably) throughout most of North and South America. Some will continue to end up as meals. They are not considered an endangered species.
Javelina are mild omnivores. They occasionally munch on worms or small salamanders. Mainstays of their diet are fruit, roots, palm nuts, grass, and tubers. In more populated areas, javelina add garden plants to the menu. They will occasionally indulge in an ornamental plant or tulip bulb.
Inquisitive and oink-like
I spotted this young javelina wandering around the perimeter of a local Phoenix, Arizona zoo.
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The desert and the suburban javelina of Arizona are no different from others of their kind. They are good at sharing habitats with humans, and merely require sufficient cover for their activities.
Revised with better fact-checking and more information, as of 3 July 2010 and 6 October 2011.