Excerpted from Texas Safari: The Game Hunter's Guide to Texas
Bears are very plenty, but we are obliged to use great care when hunting for them, lest the havalenas kill our dogs.
––W.B. Dewees, 1822
The most formidable animal, and one to be most dreaded is the Mexican hog. They have a grown one in a pen here. It is about the size of a half grown hog. Its back is covered with hair resembling porcupine quills, but much finer. It has enormous teeth & they come together like sheers & cut every thing in pieces.
––A.J. Pickett, 1856
Having a legendary reputation as being a tenacious, bloodthirsty juggernaut, the collared peccary is undoubtedly the most misunderstood game animal in Texas. Generally referred to as javelinas or Mexican hogs, peccaries once ranged as far north as the Red River and as far east as the Brazos Valley. Pressure from livestock, encroachment by man, the conversion of land to agricultural usage, as well as the commercial hunting of the animal for its hide prior to 1939 pushed the peccary to its current range of the Trans-Pecos region and the South Texas Plains.
Collared peccaries are small animals, ranging in weight from 25 to upwards of 60 pounds and standing 20 to 24 inches tall at the shoulder. They are covered with a thick, bristled hide that was once commercially harvested for leather, paint brushes and shaving brushes. Buried within this thick hide, just above the rump, is a small musk gland thought to be used to mark territories and communicate with others within the herd. Peccaries are extremely social animals, traveling in herds of anywhere from 10 to 50 animals.
Peccaries can go up to a week without drinking water, gathering most of their fluid needs from cactus and other plants in their diet. They are generally herbivores but occasionally eat insects or other small animals. Unlike the animal they are often confused for, peccaries do not root for food, as do hogs. Rather they push around the surface searching for anything edible.
The peccary’s dagger-like tusks that connect in a scissor fashion no doubt enhance their fearsome reputation. Used in self-defense if cornered or pushed, their tusks can slice open a dog or hunter in a matter of seconds. They also chatter their teeth in rapid succession, sounding similar to castanets, when agitated or alarmed. This sound, when combined with the animal’s extremely poor vision makes for rampant confusion and undoubtedly has only helped to fuel stories of charging when disturbed by humans.