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What is Capybara?

Interested in capybara facts? Your search ends here. Capybara is a cavy rodent that is native to South America. It is the largest extant or living rodent in the entire world. Guinea pigs, rock cavies are its closest relatives.

Capybaras are really big for a rodent. They are twice the size of a beaver. They may look a little weird to some and cute to some, but we bet many of us don’t know these capybara facts. Are you ready to learn about the largest rodent in the world? Then let us start…

  • Scientific Classification
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Rodentia
  • Family: Caviidae
  • Genus: Hydrochoerus
  • Species: H. hydrochaeris

Capybara Facts: 1-5

1. The name capybara is derived from Tupi, an extinct language. It means either ‘grass eater’ or ‘one who eats slender leaves.’

2. Its scientific name is Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris. It belongs to the family Caviidae.

3. Like the hippos, capybaras have a barrel shaped body. They have a short head. The coat on the upper part of the body is reddish-brown and the coat on the underside is yellowish-brown.

4. The sweat glands are present on the surface of skin’s hairy portions which is not a usual trait in rodents. It doesn’t have down hair.

5. The adults are 106 to 134 centimeters or 3.48 to 4.40 feet long and are 50 to 62 centimeters or 20 to 24 inches tall from its shoulder blades. They weigh around 77 to 146 pounds or 35 to 66 kilograms. That is

Capybara Facts: 6-10

6. Females are heavier than males. They have vestigial tails, and their feet are slightly webbed.

7. Their forelegs are smaller than their hindlegs. Forelegs have four toes and hindlegs have three toes.

8. Eyes are ears are on top of the head and the muzzles are blunt.

9. Capybaras are native to South America. You can find them in every country of South America except Chile.

10. They live near rivers, ponds, swamps, marshes, lakes, etc. They also prefer to live near rivers in tropical forests and in savannahs that are flooded.

Capybara Facts: 11-15

11. They are fantastic swimmers and can stay underwater without breathing for 5 minutes straight. They can sleep in water. They just put their nose above water surface to breathe. They are excellent divers as well.

They are highly active on land and in water. They can run at a speed of over 35 kilometers per hour! They eat at dawn and dusk. They are herbivores.

12. Their home ranges are nearly 10 hectares, but they also have huge population.

13. Some capybaras escape from captivity and are found in California, Florida, and Trinidad.

14. They are social or gregarious in nature. They are usually found in groups of 10 to 20 members. Such groups have two to four males in which one is dominant, and others are submissive, four to seven females and the rest are young ones. During the dry season, they are seen to form much larger groups of 50 to 100 members.

15. Adult males show dominance or make social bonds unlike other animals. They are known to produce sounds similar to dog barks when they feel threatened or when a mother is herding her young ones.

Capybara Facts: 16-20

16. Both males and females have two types of sweat glands which are anal glands and a morrillo (present on snout). Males use both of them more often than females.

17. The hair that lines these anal glands have some scent secretion on them. When a capybara comes in contact with plants or other objects, the hair gets released. The males do it to mark their scent. They also urinate to mark their territories.

18. Females don’t mark the territories that frequently as males do. They (females) mark more when they are in estrous cycle. Males also mark females apart from objects.

19. When the females are in estrous, males start pursuing them. She also notifies the males by producing whistle sounds. They reach sexual maturity when they are around 15 months old.

20. Females can choose their mating partner. They mate in water. When a female doesn’t want to mate with a male, she either leaves the water or submerges herself.

Capybara Facts: 21-25

21. Dominant male tries hard to protect females, but subordinates eventually mate with females. The larger the group is, the harder it is for the male to protect all females.

22. Dominant males get more mating chances than the subordinates.

23. The gestation period is 130 to 150 days. The litter usually has four offspring. But the litter size can be anywhere between one and eight.

24. Females give birth on land and they join the group in waters after few hours of delivery. Baby capybaras also join the group when they are mobile.

25. In just a week, the young ones (called pups) can eat grass, but they wean after sixteen weeks. The pups form a mini group from a main group.

Capybara Facts: 26-30

26. Nonparents also care for the young ones. Basically, every member of the group cares for the young capybaras.

27.  They use multiple sounds like cackling, squealing, grunting, barking, purring, etc. They also chatter their teeth based on what they want to communicate. Members alert other group members with the help of environment cues.

28. Like other rodents, their teeth grow forever because of the continuous wear and tear.

29. They are frequently called ‘moving chairs,’ and ‘nature’s ottoman.’ Many animals like monkeys, birds, rabbits, etc. rest on the back of capybara.

30. In Brazil, capybara is called capivara. In Bolivia it is called capiguara, chigüiro, or chigüire. In Venezuela and Colombia, it is called fercho. In Peru, it is called ronsoco and in countries like Uruguay, Paraguay, and Argentina, it is called carpincho.

Capybara Facts: 31-35

31. They are distantly related to chinchilla, copyu, agouti, etc. They are closely related to rock cavies and guinea pigs.

32. Similar to humans, capybaras can’t produce vitamin C. So, they have to consume vitamin C so that they don’t get scurvy. If capybara’s diet doesn’t contain vitamin C, they will get scurvy.

33. Some of the natural predators of capybaras are pumas, jaguars, anacondas, caimans, ocelots, etc.

34. Some people keep capybaras as pets in the United States of America. In some states of the US, keeping capybaras as pets is illegal.

35. Like rabbits, they are auto coprophagous meaning they eat their own poop. They eat the morning dump because it contains bacteria essential for digestion. As the grass they eat is not easily digestible, it gives their digestive system a second opportunity to absorb all nutrients.

Capybara Facts: 36-40

36. Did you know that over 75% of the diet of capybaras include only three to six plants?

37. Extinct relatives of capybaras were twice as long as them and weighed 8 times more than capybaras!

38. These poor animals get farmed for their meat. Their hide is also used to make leather.

39. They are listed as Least Concern in the Red List of IUCN but there is a constant and continuous habitat loss of these animals.

40. On an average, they live for around 8-10 years in the wild. But under experts’ care, they can live for a total of twelve months.


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