Chacoan Peccary, Catagonus wagneri
TAXONOMY AND NOMENCLATURE
(Mares et al., 1989)(Mayer & Brandt, 1982)(Mayer & Wetzel, 1986)
(McKenna & Bell, 1997)(Nowak, 1999)(Redford & Eisenberg, 1992)
(Simpson, 1980)(Sowls, 1997)(Theimer & Keim, 1998)(Wetzel, 1977)
(Wetzel et al., 1975)(Wright, 1989)(Yahnke et al., 1997)
Describer (Date): C. Rusconi (1930). Las especies fósiles
argentinas de pecaríes (Tayassuidae) y sus relaciones con las del Brasil y
Norte América. Anales del Museo Nacional de Historia Natural de
"Bernardino Rivadavia," 36:121-241.
Order: Artiodactyla (Even-toed ungulates)
Family: Hippopotamidae (Hippopotamus)
Family: Camelidae (Camels)
Family: Suidae (Pigs)
Family: Tayassuidae (Peccaries)
Genus: Tayassu (White-lipped peccary, collared peccary,
Genus: Catagonus (Roman-nosed peccary)
Species: C. wagneri
- The word peccary is believed to originate from pakirá,
a name for peccaries in a Guiana dialect of a Carib root word.
- One derivation of the word Chaco is the Quechuan chacu,
meaning an abundance of animal life.
- Native names for Chacoan peccary include: taguá (a Guaraní name
referring to its ability to make paths into virtually impenetrable
areas), curé-buró (a word of Guaraní and Spanish origin, which
means "pig-burro" in reference to its long ears), pecari
quimilero, and chancho quimilero; the quimil cactus, Opuntia
quimilo, is an important source of food and water for the Chacoan
- Fossils of the family Tayassuidae are known from America, Europe, Asia,
and Africa, but most of the fossil record is from North America. True
pigs, family Suidae, never occurred naturally in the Western
- Tayassuids diverged from a common ancestor with suids in Eurasia during
the late Eocene.
- The three living species of peccaries are Chacoan peccary (Catagonus
wagneri), collared peccary (Pecari tajacu), and
white-lipped peccary (Tayassu pecari). Prior to 1972, C.
wagneri was known only as an extinct species from the
pre-Hispanic period of Argentina.
- Skeletal data indicate that the closest living relative of the Chacoan
peccary is the collared peccary; however, mitochondrial-DNA evidence
points to the white-lipped peccary as being its closest living
relative. Catagonus, Pecari, and Tayassu
apparently diverged in North America during the Pliocene and before
they colonized South America.
- Benirschke & Kumamoto (1989) suggest, on the basis of chromosome
number (2n), that P. tajacu (2n = 30) and T.
pecari (2n = 26) are closer than C. wagneri
(2n = 20) to the ancestral chromosome number. On the other hand,
skeletal material indicates that T. pecari is the most modern
of peccary species.
DISTRIBUTION AND HABITAT
(Mayer & Brandt, 1982)(Mayer & Wetzel, 1986)(Nowak, 1999)(Oliver,
1993)(Redford & Eisenberg, 1992)(Sowls, 1997)(Taber, 1990)(Taber et al.,
1993)(Taber et al., 1994)
- Peccaries occur from the southwestern United States to
- The Chacoan peccary is endemic to the generally hot and
dry Gran Chaco of western Paraguay, northwestern
Argentina, and southeastern Bolivia.
- Distribution is fragmented, possibly due to intense
hunting pressure following increased accessibility
(i.e., development) of the Chaco.
Distribution map from B. Huffman's Ultimate Ungulate Page
- A mosaic of xerophytic thorn forest, open woodland with dense grass and
sparse cactus, and agricultural land.
- Chacoan peccaries evidently adapt to land degraded by fire and
overgrazed by livestock as long as ample food and cover are available
and they are not overhunted.
- Home ranges in Paraguay were 3.8-15.5 sq km; little overlap. Dispersing
animals have occupied three discrete ranges and moved 4.6 km during a
9-month period. Movement within the home range is continual.
(Herring, 1985)(Hess et al., 1985)(Mares et al., 1989)(Mayer & Brandt, 1982)
(Mayer & Wetzel, 1986)(Nowak, 1999)(Oliver, 1993)(Redford & Eisenberg,
(Sowls, 1997)(Taber et al., 1993)(Wetzel, 1977; Wright, 1993)
Body Weight: 29.5-40 kg (males)
and 30.5-38.5 kg (females); 43.5 kg for a pregnant female.
Body Length: 96-116 cm (males) to 103-117
Shoulder Height: 52-69 cm (males) and
52.5-64 cm (females).
- Sexes are nearly indistinguishable in the field.
- Skeletal characteristics of primitive and recent species of peccaries
indicate an evolutionary trend of reduced sexual dimorphism.
Other Physical Characteristics:
- Coloration is grizzled and includes various shades of gray-brown,
black, and white and is similar to, though paler than, the collared
peccary. The Chacoan peccary has a dark, mid-dorsal stripe and a
diffuse, pale band that extends from the lower jaw to the back just
behind the shoulder (the band is less distinct than in the collared
- Long hairs give it a shaggy appearance. Winter hairs are nearly 5 cm
longer and thicker in diameter than summer hairs.
- Pelage of juveniles (until the age of 3-4 months) is grizzled tan and
black, with a black back stripe, tan shoulder collar, and white
- Peccaries are distinguishable from pigs by having upper canines that
are relatively small and point down, as opposed to the large, upper
canines of pigs that curve upward and outward. Peccaries, like pigs,
have four toes on the frontfoot, but pigs have four toes on the
hindfoot, while there are just two functional toes on the hindfoot of
peccaries. Pecari tajacu and T. pecari
have a vestigial, median digit (dewclaw) on the back of the hindfoot,
but this is usually absent in C. wagneri.
- The Chacoan peccary is distinguishable from the collared peccary and
white-lipped peccary by its larger size, longer dorsal pelage, and a
longer, more concave rostrum (skull's facial region). It also has a
proportionally larger head and longer ears, legs, and tail.
- Longer limbs and loss of the hindfoot dewclaw are adaptations for a
cursorial life in open, semiarid habitats. Also beneficial for living
in open habitats is the skull's curvature, which permits horizontal
vision while foraging with head down.
- Females have four pairs of mammae (one pair pectoral, two pairs
abdominal, and one pair inguinal).
- Large scent gland on the rear of the back, about 15 cm above the base
of the tail.
- Nasal chambers and sinuses are well-developed, possibly an adaptation
to the dusty conditions found during much of the year in the Chaco.
- Dental formula is: incisors, 2/3; canines, 1/1; premolars, 3/3; molars,
3/3; total, 38. Tooth structure suggests the Chacoan peccary is a
browser, and broadened molars emphasize grinding mastication.
- Olfaction and hearing are good; vision is poor.
BEHAVIOR AND ECOLOGY
(Benirschke et al., 1995)(Handen & Benirschke, 1991)
(Mayer & Brandt, 1982)(Mayer & Wetzel, 1986)(Redford & Eisenberg,
(Sowls, 1997)(Taber et al., 1993)(Taber et al., 1994)(Yahnke et al.,
- Active from dawn to dusk (0600-0730 to 1830-1930 h), but most activity
occurs before midday (varies with season, individual, and temperature.
During the hottest and coldest weather, for example, they may be
active for 1-2 hours in the middle of the night.
- Herds move from their bedding areas to foraging areas after sunrise and
feed throughout the day, although all activity may wane at early
afternoon during hot weather.
- Nighttime resting sites are used only 2-3 nights in succession. Rest
sites are shallow depressions in the soil, one for each animal, and
located within 100 m of a communal defecation site (scat station). A
scat station is used periodically over months or even years.
- Chacoan peccaries use dust and mud wallows. Adults rest in the shade of
low brush or tall trees during the heat of the day, spending the time
lying close to herd members, rolling in the dirt, nuzzling each other,
or grooming; infants and juveniles actively frisk about and chase one
another around the resting adults. Thick brush may give herds refuge
from dust storms.
- Average daily movement is 2.2 km. Herds move in single file when
travelling through thorn forest, but they spread out in open areas.
- Herds are small stable groups of males and females that remain together
for >1 year; they are probably extended family groups. Benirschke
& Heuschele (1993) reported that a matriarch appeared to be the
dominant animal in three separate captive herds.
- Average herd size is 3.7-4.6 individuals (range 1-10), the smallest
social group among the three species of peccaries.
- If a herd is startled and becomes separated, herd individuals attempt
- Gregarious and territorial. The Chacoan peccary's habit of scent
marking, use of scat stations, limited overlap between home ranges,
and where their ranges do overlap, use of the same area at different
times suggest that defended areas (i.e., territories) are maintained.
- Home ranges sometimes overlap with those of collared peccary (by as
much as 88%) and white-lipped peccary. Interspecific avoidance may be
facilitated by scent marking.
- Neonates often engage in leaping and running in circles for short
periods ("frisky hopping").
- Play fighting in younger animals includes charging, biting, and
- Younger animals are often at play while adults are foraging, moving, or
- Non-fighting aggression usually involves squabbles among yearlings over
a food item or mutual threats by two individuals over soil feeding
sites on ant mounds. Pelage is erect during these encounters.
- Dominance interactions involve charging, biting, and whirl-arounds;
dominance is apparently determined by size, but as indicated above,
gender may also be involved.
- The Chacoan peccary seems to be less aggressive than other peccary
species. For instance, squabbles are brief and often end quickly with
one or both animals backing off.
- A "head-down" or "head-bowing" posture is
associated with curiosity.
- Lying with belly on the ground and head/neck stretched out flat
- Lengthy duets of soft grunts often occur between herd members.
- A single "woof" often accompanies head bowing.
- On very hot days, occasional "mewling" sounds are made when
they lie in the shade and pant.
- Teeth chattering, a common vocalization signaling aggression in other
species of peccaries, is uncommon in the Chacoan peccary.
- Scent-gland secretions are rubbed or squirted on tree trunks and fence
posts. Scent marking apparently functions to keep the herd together,
recognize individuals, and delineate territories. Scent marking is
more frequent in areas of heavy herd use (e.g., scat stations,
wallows, and ant-mound feeding sites), and herd members often scent
mark one another. This mutual rubbing is done as two animals stand
side-by-side, in opposite direction, and each simultaneously rubs one
cheek on the other's scent gland. When Chacoan peccaries are alarmed,
the scent gland may squirt liquids as they flee with hair fully erect
- Defecation is generally done at scat stations, areas 2-12 sq m in size.
- Easily tamed by indigenous people and kept either as pets or as food
- Easily alarmed by other large animals taking flight (e.g., brocket deer
and chachalacas) and humans. After running a short distance into
cover, peccaries stop and look back at the cause of their flight.
DIET AND FEEDING
(Benirschke & Heuschele, 1993)(Handen & Benirschke, 1991)
(Mayer & Brandt, 1982)(Mayer & Wetzel, 1986)(Nowak, 1999)(Oliver, 1993)
(Redford & Eisenberg, 1992)(Sowls, 1997)(Taber et al., 1993)(Taber et al.,
- Frugivores/herbivores: eat mainly fruits and other fleshy plant parts.
- Cacti form the bulk of the diet, but also roots and inner portions of
bromeliads, seed pods of Acacia sp. and Prosopis sp.
(mesquite), and herbs. Animals at Proyecto Taguá ate empty
shells of large land snails, and a dwarf Patagonian cavy was killed
and eaten on one occasion (Benirschke et al.,1990).
- Compared to the collared peccary, which feeds less on cacti, the
Chacoan peccary's ability to feed almost exclusively on such a lower
quality diet may be facilitated by its larger body size, which relates
to its larger gut contents and a lower metabolic rate. Digestive
fermentation is aided by its complex stomach; peccaries have a
two-chambered stomach consisting of four main sections, whereas pigs
have a simple, one-chambered stomach.
- Soil is often eaten at salt licks and at leaf-cutter ant (Atta
sp.) mounds. These ant mounds have significantly higher concentrations
of calcium, magnesium, chlorine, and sodium than the surrounding soil.
- Core foraging areas include cactus patches, which are sporadically
distributed in thorn forest habitat. Daily ranges average 18.25 ha,
and a particular range is used about every 42 days. This 42-day cycle
allows cactus-rich areas to regenerate, thus, enabling peccaries to
maximize nutrient intake.
- Home ranges lack surface water during the dry season, indicating that
cacti (90% water by weight) provide Chacoan peccaries with sufficient
water. They occasionally drink water in captivity. Because its kidneys
are more able to concentrate urine and thus conserve additional water,
the Chacoan peccary can live in drier areas than the collared peccary.
- Daily food intake is estimated to be 4 kg.
REPRODUCTION AND DEVELOPMENT
(Benirschke & Heuschele, 1993)(Benirschke et al., 1990)(Brooks, 1992)
(Handen & Benirschke, 1991)(Hayssen et al., 1993)(Mayer & Brandt, 1982)
(Mayer & Wetzel, 1986)(Redford & Eisenberg, 1992)(Sowls, 1997)
(Taber, 1990; Taber et al., 1993)(Unger, 1999)(Wetzel, 1977)(Yahnke et al.,
Reproductive rate: females at Proyecto
Taguá gave birth between 1.2 and 8.3 years of age; younger females (<3 years
old) usually had smaller litters than older females. They have one litter a
Gestation: 151 days.
Litter size: usually two or three, but varies from one to four.
- Farrowing season is September-January. Most wild births in Paraguay
(93%) occur September through October, a period that coincides with
the transition from the dry (May-October) to the wet season
(November-April). Captive births at Proyecto Taguá occur throughout
the year but peak September-November.
- Lone females may leave the herd just prior to parturition and rejoin it
in about a week. Young usually remain under their dam or close
- Able to run within 2 hours of birth.
- At birth: Deciduous teeth consist of the third lower incisor and lower
and upper canines.
Infants (<1 month of
Juveniles (1-12 months of age):
- Pelage coloration (until the age of 3-4 months) is grizzled tan and
black, with a black back stripe, tan shoulder collar, and white
- Neonates are precocial and travel with the herd at less than 1 week of
age. Observations at Proyecto Taguá suggest that group tolerance and
acceptance of infants is greater than in other species of
- Begin to eat solid food at 14-17 days.
- During 1st week: Body weight is 500-1,050 g. Two females born at
Phoenix Zoo weighed 900 and 1,050 g, respectively, at 2 days of age
(GL Thomas, personal communication).
- At about 1 month:
- Body weight is 2-2.9 kg.
- Body (snout-tail) length is 46 cm.
- Deciduous teeth consist of the third lower incisor, lower and
upper canines, and the first and second, lower and upper
Young adults (1-2 years of age):
- Body weight is 4.5-18 kg.
- Body length is 78-93 cm (males) to 91-95 cm (females).
- Adult coloration at 3-4 months of age.
- Deciduous dentition is complete: 2/3, incisors; 1/1, canines; 3/3,
premolars; total, 26.
- In a 1.7-hectare enclosure, young visited a feeding station independent
of adults as early as 70 days of age.
- Scent gland grooming begins at this stage of development.
Adults (>2 years of age):
- Body weight is 23-24.5 kg (females) and 23.5-24 kg (males).
- Body length is 97-104 cm (males) to 100-122 cm (females).
- Most deciduous teeth are replaced with permanent teeth.
- Chacoan peccaries in the wild possibly breed around 2 years of age, but
in captivity, conception can occur before 1 year; female collared
peccaries reach first estrus as early as 33 weeks.
- Sexual maturity: 16-24 months.
Longevity: not reported for wild
animals; at least 10 years, 6 months in captivity.
- Body weight is 29.5-40 kg (males) and 30.5-38.5 kg (females); 43.5 kg
for a pregnant female.
- Body length is 96-116 cm (males) to 103-117 cm (females).
- Permanent dentition is in place.
- Annual mortality in the Paraguayan Chaco was 47%. Among captive animals
at Proyecto Taguá (western Paraguay), mortality was 50% between birth
and 3 months of age and 4% between 3 and 12 months.
- Mountain lions and jaguars are known predators; ocelots may prey on
- Mountain lions and jaguars are known predators; ocelots may prey on
DISEASES AND PATHOLOGY
(Benirschke & Heuschele, 1993)(Benirschke et al., 1990)
(Benirschke et al., 1995)(Sowls, 1997)(Yahnke et al., 1997)
- Foot-and-mouth disease and bovine rabies were common in domestic
livestock during the late 1970s, when Chacoan peccaries in northern
and western Paraguay reportedly died from disease.
- Mortality in captive animals has been related to capture trauma,
crowding, and malnutrition.
- Neonates have succumbed to bronchopneumonia, competition with older
offspring for maternal milk, wasp stings, and infanticide.
POPULATION AND CONSERVATION STATUS
(Baillie & Groombridge, 1996)(Kingswood et al., 1991)(Mayer & Brandt,
(Mayer & Wetzel, 1986)(Oliver, 1993)(Redford & Eisenberg, 1992)
(Sowls, 1997)(Taber et al., 1993)(Wijnstekers, 1995)
Conservation: Recommended Priority Actions
- IUCN status: Endangered
- CITES: Appendix I
- Populations of the Chacoan peccary are declining and becoming more
fragmented. Total numbers are unknown but estimated to be 5,000 in
Paraguay and several thousand in Argentina and Bolivia.
- Population densities in the central Paraguayan Chaco were 0.43 and
9.24/sq km. Proportions of age classes in the sparser population were
estimated as follows: <2 years old, 20%; 2-3 years old, 47%; 3-5
years old, 20%; >5 years old, 13%. This population was in decline
as a result of high annual mortality (47%), probably high neonatal
mortality, a single breeding season/year, and late age at first
reproduction (ca. 2 years).
Threats to Survival
- create a national park where a large peccary population remains
- establish private reserves to protect other significant populations
- enforce hunting regulations
- use the Chacoan peccary as a "flagship species" to support
environmental education programs for the Gran Chaco
- strengthen wildlife management efforts aimed at monitoring populations
- captive breeding
- translocate animals from areas being deforested to parks
- continue research projects directed at making effective management
- habitat destruction
- uncontrolled hunting
- predation by larger felids
- probably livestock diseases
(Allen, 1992)(Benirschke & Heuschele, 1993)
(Kingswood & Brooks, 1991)(Shoemaker, 1997)(Unger, 1999)
- First zoological collection known to exhibit the Chacoan peccary
outside its natural range was Berlin Zoo in 1977-1978 (ML Jones,
- Since 1985, Proyecto Taguá in the Paraguayan Chaco has maintained the
largest collection of Chacoan peccaries in captivity. This project was
initiated by Kurt Benirschke and has been supported by the Zoological
Society of San Diego and Lincoln Park Zoological Society.
- Phoenix Zoo was the first in North America to exhibit the species,
receiving 10 animals from Proyecto Taguá in 1996.
- San Diego Zoo received 1.3 Chacoan peccaries from Phoenix 8 October
1998, and 1.1 were born 30 May 1999.
- Management and husbandry considerations are reviewed by Kingswood &
Brooks (1991) and Shoemaker (1997). Chemical immobilization is
detailed by Allen (1992).
- ISIS captive population
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