Capybara (Hydrochaeris hydrochaeris)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family:    Hydrochaeridae
Size:    Length: 35 to 53 inches (90 to 135 cm)  Height: Up to 24 inches (61 cm)
Weight: 75 to 174 pounds (34 to 79 kg) 
Diet: Water and land vegetation, as well as fruit
Distribution: South America, east of the Andes mountains
Young:  1 to 8, once or twice per year
Animal Predators:  Jaguars, pumas, anacondas, caimans, ocelots and eagles
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: No special terms
Lifespan: 8 to 10 years in the wild and up to 15 years in captivity



·         Capybara means “master of the grasses” in the language of the Guarani Indians.

·         Due to their highly aquatic nature, the capybara was once declared by the Vatican to be a fish.

·         The scientific name, Hydrochaeris, means “water pig.”

·         Capybaras are the largest rodents in the world. 



Capybaras are classified as rodents, but resemble full-grown dogs, with a flat, square snout. Females are slightly larger than males. Their front legs are shorter than their rear legs, and their feet are webbed. They have short, rounded ears, small eyes and no tail. The male has a scent gland on the top of the snout. They have tough skin sparsely covered in fur, which ranges in colour from brown to red. 



Capybaras live in South America, east of the Andes Mountains, from the northern tip of the continent down through Colombia and Uruguay to northeastern Argentina. They live in dense forests, near a water source such as a lake, river, swamp, marsh or pond.


Feeding Habits

Capybaras graze in groups, eating vegetation from both the water and from land, including grasses, water plants, melons and squash.



Breeding takes place throughout the year, but the most common time is April and May, before the onset of the rainy season. One litter a year is usually produced, but two are not uncommon. Couples mate in the water, then the females go through a five-month pregnancy, giving birth on land. The babies are born fully furred with their eyes open, and weigh three to four pounds (1.3 to 1.8 kg). They begin eating grass within days, but nurse for up to four months. All the members of the group help take care of the young, especially females under 15 months who are not yet old enough to have their own. 



Capybaras live in groups of approximately 20 individuals with one dominant male, several females and their offspring. They communicate with each other by whistling or barking. When they need to get away from a predator, they usually enter the water, where they are equally skilled at surface and underwater swimming. Capybaras can even sleep in the water, with only their nostrils showing. They can be either nocturnal or active during the day, depending on how populated their surroundings are. They may bask in the sun during cooler seasons, but will stay in the shade and rest, or wallow in water during periods of intense heat, coming back out in the evening once the air has cooled.



In many countries, capybara populations are stable and even increasing, although hunting and extermination attempts have caused population levels to fall in other areas. They are not considered a conservation concern.