Peccaries are medium-sized animals found in the Americas. They have a strong, superficial resemblance to pigs. Like pigs, they have a snout ending in a cartilagenous disc, and eyes that are small relative to their head. Also like pigs, they use only the middle two digits for walking, although, unlike pigs, the other toes may be altogether absent. Their stomach is non-ruminating, although it has three chambers, and is more complex than that of pigs.
Peccaries are omnivores, and will eat small animals, although their preferred food consists of roots, grass, seeds, and fruit. One of the ways to tell apart pigs and peccaries is the shape of the canine tooth, or tusk. In European pigs the tusk is long and curves around on itself, whereas in peccaries, the tusk is short and straight. The jaws and tusks of peccaries are adapted for crushing hard seeds and slicing into plant roots, and they also use their tusks for defense. The dental formula for peccaries is:
By rubbing the tusks together they can make a chattering noise that warns potential predators not to get too close. Peccaries, indeed, are aggressive enough in temperament that, unlike Eurasian pigs, they cannot be domesticated as they are likely to injure humans. Indeed in recent years in North-western Bolivia near Madidi National Park there have been reports of people being seriously injured and killed by large groups of peccaries.
Peccaries are social animals, and often form herds. Over 100 individuals have been recorded for a single herd of white-lipped peccaries, but collared and Chacoan peccaries usually form smaller groups. Such social behavior seems to have been the situation in extinct peccaries as well.
Peccaries have scent glands below each eye and another on their back, though these are believed to be rudimentary in Pecari maximus. They use the scent to mark herd territories, which range from 75 to 700 acres (2.8 km2). They also mark other herd members with these scent glands by rubbing one against another. The pungent odor allows peccaries to recognize other members of the herd, despite their myopic vision.
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