Catagonus wagneriChacoan peccary

Geographic Range

Catagonus wagneri, more commonly known as the Chacoan peccary, is endemic to the South American countries of Paraguay, Bolivia, and Southern Brazil (McDonald Website).


Chacoan peccaries have received the nickname "pigs from green hell" because of their wild, inpenetrable habitats. The Chacoan peccary is truly confined to hot, dry areas inpenetrable and untouched by humans (Cohn 1996). Dominated by low-lying succulents and thorny bushes, the Gran Chaco is approximately 140,000 square kilometers. There are a few scattered giant trees, but the majority of the vegetation is thorny scrub vegetation (Sowls 1997). Catagonus have developed adaptations like well-developed sinuses to combat dry, dusty conditions (Mayer et al. 1986). The feet are also small, which allows maneuverability among spiny plants (Cohn 1996).

Physical Description

The largest of the three species of peccary, Catagonus wagneri has many "pig-like" features (Nova Website). The Chacoan peccary is an ungulate possessing a well-formed rostrum with a tough, leathery snout. The bristle-like fur is generally brown to almost gray. A dark stripe runs across the back, and white fur is found on the shoulders. C. wagneri differs from the its fellow peccary species by having longer ears, snout, and tail. It has white hairs around the mouth, unlike other peccaries. Catagonus wagneri also possesses a third hind toe, while other peccaries only have two (Mayer et al. 1986). The hypsodont teeth follow this dental formula: 2/3, 1/1, 3/3, 3/3 (GeoZoo Website). The upper canines also display the distinguishing trait of peccaries, pointing downwards instead of out and up like other Suiformes (GeoZoo Website).

  • Range mass
    29 to 49 kg
    63.88 to 107.93 lb


Young are generally born between the months of September to December, but litters have been found almost year-round (Mayer et al. 1986). Births have been linked to periods of food abundance and rainfall (Sowls 1997). The average number of embryos has been recorded as approximately 2.72 (Mayer etal. 1986). Females may leave the herd to give birth and then return afterwards. Newborns are precocial, able to run a few hours after birth (Sowls 1997). The pelage of the young resembles that of the adults (Schmidt 1990). There is no sexual dimorphism (Mayer et al. 1986).

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    1096 days



Chacoan peccaries often travel in herds of up to ten individuals (Parker 1990). The herds are different from those of other species because they are active during the day, especially in the morning when they are most apt to travel. Herds display a general travel cycle within the homerange of 42 days. This allows the individuals to monitor and show ownership over their areas.

These social mammals communicate by various sounds ranging from grunts to chatters of the teeth. Even though individuals may occassionally exhibit aggressive behavior like charging and biting, this species is not as aggressive as others.

As a defensive strategy, members of a herd may line up in a defensive wall; this makes the herds easy targets for hunters (Sowls 1997). Catagonus wagneri produces a milky, odorous substance that serves as an identifying mark left by the Chacoan peccary. The substance is secreted from glands located on the back, and is dispersed by rubbing (Mayers et al. 1986). Frequently bathing in mud or dust, Chacoan peccaries also defecate at particular "stations" (Sowls 1997).

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

The arid habitat of the Gran Chaco region provides very tough vegetation for C. wagneri. These peccaries feed on various species of cacti (Cohn 1996), species like Cleistocactus baumannii and Opuntia discolor. C. wagneri uses its tough snout to roll the cacti on the ground, rubbing the spines off. The Chacoan peccary may pull off the spines with its teeth and spit them out. The kidneys of Catagonus wagneri are specialized to break down acids from the cacti. The two-chambered stomachs are also well suited to digest tough foods like cacti (Cohn 1996). Occassionally grazing on bromeliad roots, C. wagneri also eats acacia pods and fallen cacti flowers. This species of peccary seeks out salt licks formed from ant mounds and construction projects like road building and land clearings. The Chacoan peccary gains essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, and chlorine from the salt licks (Sowls 1997).

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Historically, the "spirit masters of the forest" have been hunted by local peoples, providing a plentiful and reliable source of protein. Even today, Catagonus wagneri provides meat for both local people and developers (Cohn 1996). The meat of the Chacoan peccary has been known to be "quite tasty". Catagonus wagneri possesses thinner skin than that of its relatives, and was never widely hunted for its hide (Sowls 1997).

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There have been no reports of the Chacoan peccary adversely affecting humans. This is probably due to the isolated, wild habitats of the species (Sowls 1997).

Conservation Status

Because the Chacoan peccary is endemic to a formerly isolated region of South America, it is most vulnerable to human activity. Just as quickly as this species is discovered in an area, it disappears (Sowls 1997). Herd numbers are decreasing as a result of habitat loss and fragmentation (IUCN 1993). The range of the Chacoan peccary is being quickly tranformed into large Texas-style ranches. Hunting also continues as well as an unidentified disease that has plagued the herds in recent years (Sowls 1997). Efforts are underway to breed Chacoan peccaries in captivity, but the species does not survive well outside of the wild. Preserves have also been established in Paraguay, but are not highly enforced (IUCN 1993).

Other Comments

Catagonus wagneri is a relatively "new" species of large mammals. Made known to western science in 1972 by Dr. Ralph Wetzel and colleagues, the species was thought to be extinct (Sowls 1997).


Erica Raffo (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


uses touch to communicate


Cohn, J. Jul./Aug. 1996. Americas, 48:4: 38-44.

GeoZoo Mammals, Accessed December 10, 1999 at

Mayer, J., R. Wetzel. 1986. Mammalian Species No. 259. The American Society of Mammalogists.

McDonald, G. ""Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument Pearce's Peccary Platygonus pearcei" (On-line). Accessed December 10, 1999 at

NOVA, Accessed December 10, 1999 at

Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World Vol. 2, 6th Edition. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press.

Oliver, W. 1993. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan for: Pigs, Peccaries, and Hippos. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN.

Parker, S. 1990. Grimzek's Encyclopedia of Mammals Vol. 5. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company.

Sowls, L. 1997. Javelinas and other Peccaries: Their Biology, Management, and Use: Second Edition. Arizona: Texas A & M University Press.