Hydrochoerus capybara

Conservation status: IUCN – LC (Least concern)

Geographic range: Capybaras live in almost all regions of South America, except for Chile.

Physical description: Capybaras are the largest rodent in the world, can grow up to 1,5 meters long and weigh up to 70 kg. Their appearance is similar to an oversized guinea pig, but their fur is coarse and thin with reddish-brown and yellow-brown colouring. They are easily sunburned and have short necks and small ears. The front legs are slightly shorter than their hind legs and their feet are partially webbed. Their eyes, ears, and nostrils are on top of their heads, which allows them to smell, see, and hear well while swimming. They have very short, stubby tails. 

Biology: Capybaras are similar to cows in that they ruminate their food in order to chew it again. They are also autocoprophagous, meaning they eat their faeces, which helps them maintain healthy intestinal microflora. Like most rodents, their front teeth grow continuously to compensate for the grinding from eating grasses and the young are born with fully developed teeth and can feed like adults. They live close to the water in groups of around 20 individuals, but their number can be as large as 100. There is a strict hierarchy within a group with one dominant male. Females make barking-like sounds when they are willing to mate. They are most active in the mornings and evenings and usually rest in the day time. They generally move slowly with short steps but can run very quickly and even jump if necessary. Individuals bark to warn the group of danger, which often results in the whole group running into the nearest body of water. They are supreme swimmers, swimming long distances, and can stay submerged for up to 5 minutes. Gestation takes about 17 weeks and they typically give birth to 2 to 8 babies. They are born well developed and within a few days are fully capable of keeping up with their mothers. 

Lifespan: In the wild 7-10 years, in captivity 12 years.

Food habits: Grasses, aquatic plants, fruit, berries and softwood bark.

Scroll Up