Javelinas at Tanque Verde Ranch

AZ Nature, At The Ranch

It is an exciting but not uncommon site to see when a pack of javelinas stroll across the Tanque Verde Ranch. Javelinas are also commonly seen among horseback riding, mountain biking, and hiking activities at the ranch. They may look grungy with a hint of cuteness, but they can be quite foul. Javelinas are fun to watch, no doubt,  but keeping a safe distance is extremely important as they can be harmful if they feel threatened.

Javelinas are NOT Rodents

Because of the similarity of appearance to the capybara, the world’s largest rodent, some people believe the javelina is a rodent. Here are some things you can look for to distinguish the differences between Javelina and  Rodents:

  • Rodents are a group of mammals characterized by two upper and two lower incisors that grow continuously during their lives. Javelinas use a constant gnawing of hard materials, such as wood, to wear down the teeth.
  • Rodents have no canine teeth. Javelinas have four uppers and six lower incisors. They have two upper and two lower canines which are flat-sided.  These canines rub against each other every time javelinas open and close their mouths, sharpening the teeth like a knife over steel.  They are excellent digging tools.

Javelinas are NOT Pigs

There are also many misconceptions that Javelinas are part of the Suidae family (pigs, boars, warthogs, etc.)  Because of the pig-like nose and the canines that resemble a pig’s tusks, many think javelinas are a pig.  They are not related.  All of the pigs in the United States, domesticated or wild, are descendants of animals brought from Europe or Asia.  The javelina evolved in the Americas. Here are the differences you can look for:

  • Most obvious is size. A pig at 150 pounds is a runt while a javelina at 50 pounds is large.
  • When a pig gives birth, she has a large litter of blind, helpless piglets that she feeds while laying down. Javelina typically has twins that are on their feet the day they’re born, running with the herd the next day while Momma feeds them standing up.

Javelinas ARE Herbivores

Mistakenly called a pig or rodent, the javelina, pronounced ‘have-uh-LEEN-ah,’ is a member of a family of mammals known as the peccaries.  Native to the Americas, they are rooting animals found in southern Texas and Arizona.  They have an excellent sense of smell but have poor eyesight.  They are not aggressive, but like all wild animals, they will defend themselves if they feel threatened by humans’ approach.

When you visit the ranch be sure to keep your eyes out for these exciting desert creatures so you can take pictures, and videos of them, or see them parade out in the distance while on horseback. Be sure to tell all your family and friends about javelinas now that you know so much about them. If you have any questions or further interests stop by the Nature Center at Tanque Verde Ranch to learn more and see related exhibits.

Interesting facts about javelinas

  • Javelinas live in desert washes, saguaro and paloverde forests, oak woodlands, and grasslands with mixed shrubs and cacti. They can be found in deserts of the southeast Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, southward through Mexico and Central America, and into Northern Argentina.
  • Javelinas can stand up to 2 feet tall and can weigh between 35-55 pounds. Generally, they are 3-4 feet long.
  • Javelinas have a scent gland on the top of their rump covered by long hairs. They will rub their scent on rocks and tree stumps to mark their territory, as well as rub the scent on each other to help with identification.
  • Javelinas roam through herds of about 20 to protect themselves from predators.
  • Javelinas are most active at night. They have a keen sense of smell and have very poor eyesight.
  • It isn’t uncommon for herds to be seen rummaging and walking through neighborhood streets looking for garbage receptacles.
  • Adult females can give birth at any time of the year. The young are often called “reds” due to the red color of their hair.
  • Javelinas typically have a lifespan of around ten years. Captive Javelinas have been known to live for over 20 years.
  • Javelina’s main predators are mountain lions, coyotes, bobcats, jaguars, and humans.
  • Javelinas’ diet consists of native plant foods such as agave, mesquite beans, and prickly pear as well as roots, tubers, and other green vegetation. If the opportunity arises they will also eat lizards, dead birds, and rodents.