Genus species: Hydrochaeris
The capybara is
the largest rodent in the world. Rodents are distinguished by their
sharp-edged, 2 incisors. Capybara incisors are yellow (a look at the
picture below will show the teeth and how they are set up, when the
incisors are in action the cheek teeth aren't and vice versa, this is
allowed because of the diastema). Its outer appearance looks like a
giant guinea pig. It comes in colours from brown to red and all the
colours in between. Its skin is tough and thinly haired. The capybara
has short ears, a small nose, and short hair all over their bodies.
Their hide is made into high quality leather. Their
scientific name, Hydrochoerus, means "water pig".
the wild, the capybara likes to shelter and hide in thick brush. In
totally wild habitat, it is active in the day and at night, resting
in it's burrow during the day, but where it is bothered by people, it
has become nocturnal or crepuscular. The capybara is hunted by farmers
for meat and hides and to protect agricultural crops. Its teeth are
prized as ornaments by natives and the body fat is used in pharmaceuticals.
In some areas it is becoming rare, while in other areas it thrives.
Some ranchers with marginal land for cattle because of excessive wetlands,
have begun to farm capybara as livestock.
is native to the Amazon Rainforest. Panama and parts of the Andes Mountains,
Columbia, Uruguay, and Argentina, and is always to be found near water.
No doubt someone will import one or two and then they will escape into
The capybara lives in
large groups up to 20 (though a lot bigger groups of up to 100 have
been seen especially in the dry season when they congregate around water
holes) with one head male and 1 to several females and other males.
They communicate with barks, whistles, clicks, squeals, and grunts plus
smell. Observation has shown that they
mostly sit around all day. The name 'capybara' means 'master of the
grasses' in the language of the Guarani Indians and water pig in some
are slightly clumsy on land, but are excellent swimmers and divers,
but they are mammals, and can't stay under water forever, however they
can stay under water for a few minutes, and can even sleep underwater
if necessary with only their nose sticking out of the water.
of a male is 77 to 140 pounds, and the female is 80 to 145 pounds. The
capybara's large but squat body has a length from 42 to 53 inches, and
a height at shoulder from 20 to 24 inches. Its eyes are small and located
at the top of their head with their ears and nose (very similar to the
Coypu). It also has a large bump located here which may be a scent gland.
Their legs are short but their front legs are longer than the back legs
and their toes are slightly webbed
with 4 toes on the front foot and 3 toes on the back.
comes in colours from brown to red and all the colours in between. Its
skin is tough and thinly haired.
is year round, however mostly occurs in April and May and again in the
mate in the water just before rainy season.
females have one litter per year, although two litters are not uncommon.
have 5 pair of mammae (nipples) and have litters of 2-8, averaging 5
babies. Gestation is 120-150 days. With babies weighing 3 lb. The young
can follow the mother from birth and eat plants right away, but they
still drink milk and are weaned at 16 weeks. The entire group of females
help take care of her babies which reach sexual maturity at 15 months.
capybara's life span in the wild is about 8-10 years, but when in the
zoo their life span is about 12 years.
plants, grass, vegetables and tree bark.
protect themselves in a different way than other animals do. If they
hear danger coming, they will dive into the water and hide like 'cowards'.
Their natural enemies include the anaconda and the jacare. Its worst
enemies are the jaguar, puma, caiman and of course MAN. Capybaras sometimes
hide in floating vegetation.
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