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Chacoan Peccary (Catagonus wagneri) Fact Sheet: Behavior & Ecology

Chacoan Peccary (Catagonus wagneri)

Activity Cycle

Daily activity patterns

  • 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.

Movements and dispersal

(Taber et al. 2011)

Home ranges

  • Continuous movement within home range
  • Core areas ~600 ha ( 2.3 sq mi, 6 sq km), as large as 1100 ha (4.2 sq mi, 11 sq km)
  • Territorial

Social Behavior

Social groups

  • 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 herds under managed care.
  • 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 to reunite.


Visual displays

  • A "head-down" or "head-bowing" posture is associated with curiosity.
  • Lying with belly on the ground and head/neck stretched out flat indicates submission.


  • 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.

Olfactory signals

  • 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 mi in size.

Agonistic Behavior and Defense

  • 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.

Territorial Behavior

  • 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.

Other Behaviors


  • Neonates often engage in leaping and running in circles for short periods ("frisky hopping").
  • Play fighting in younger animals includes charging, biting, and whirl-arounds.
  • Younger animals are often at play while adults are foraging, moving, or resting.

Interspecies Interactions

  • Easily tamed by indigenous people and kept either as pets or as food animals.
  • 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.

Resting Together

Two Chacoan Peccaries sleeping on each other

Chacoan peccaries are social and territorial.

Tactile and olfactory communication are both important to this species.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

Page Citations

Benirschke et al. (1995)
Handen & Benirschke (1991)
Mayer & Brandt (1982)
Mayer & Wetzel (1986)
Redford & Eisenberg (1992)
Sowls (1997)
Taber et al. (1993)
Taber et al. (1994)
Yahnke et al. (1997)

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