Capybara: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Suborder: Hystricomorpha
Family: Caviidae
Subfamily: Hydrochoerinae
Genus: Hydrochoerus
Brisson, 1762
Species: H. hydrochaeris
Binomial name
Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris
(Linnaeus, 1766)
Ranges of capybara (green) and lesser capybara (red)

The capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris [1][3][4]), also known as capibara, chigüire in Venezuela, ronsoco in Peru, chigüiro, and carpincho in Spanish,[5][6][7] and capivara in Portuguese[6], is the largest living rodent in the world.[8] Its closest relatives are agouti, chinchillas, coyphillas, and guinea pigs.[9] Its common name, derived from Kapiÿva in the Guarani language,[6] means "master of the grasses"[10] while its scientific name, hydrochaeris, is Greek for "water hog".[9]

Capybaras have heavy, barrel-shaped bodies and short heads with reddish-brown fur on the upper part of their body that turns yellowish-brown underneath. Adult capybaras may grow to 130 centimetres (4.3 ft) in length, and weigh up to 65 kg (140 lb).[11][12][13] The top recorded weight is 105.4 kg (232 lbs).[14] Capybaras have slightly webbed feet, no tail,[15] and 20 teeth.[16] Their back legs are slightly longer than their front legs and their muzzles are blunt with eyes, nostrils, and ears on top of their head.[15] Females are slightly heavier than males. Females: 80 to 145 pounds. Males: 75 to 135 pounds.


Fossil record and other species

Life restoration of the extinct Protohydrochoerus

Though now extinct, there once existed a larger capybara called Neochoerus pinckneyi. Other fossil caviomorphs that were eight times the size of modern capybaras have been called "capybaras" by the popular press, but were actually dinomyids related to the pacarana.[15][16] There is also a "lesser capybara", Hydrochoerus isthmius.[3]


Capybaras reach sexual maturity within 22 months[15] and breed when conditions are perfect, which can be once per year (such as in Brazil) or throughout the year (such as in Venezuela and Colombia). The male pursues a female and mounts when the female stops in water. Capybara gestation is 130–150 days and usually produces a litter of four capybara babies, but may produce between two and eight in a single litter.[12] Birth is on land and the female will rejoin the group within a few hours of delivering the newborn capybaras, who will join the group as soon as they are mobile. Within a week the young can eat grass, but will continue to suckle - from any female in the group - until weaned at about 16 weeks. Youngsters will form a group within the main group.[10][15] The rainy season of April and May mark the peak breeding season.[6] Like other rodents, the front teeth of capybaras grow continually to compensate for the constant wearing-down from eating grasses;[10] their cheek teeth also grow continuously.[8] When fully grown, a capybara will have coarse hair that is sparsely spread over their skin, making the capybara prone to sunburn. To prevent this, they may roll in mud to protect their skin from the sun.[16]

Capybara have an extremely efficient digestive system that sustains the animal while 75% of its diet encompasses only 3-6 species of plants.[17]


Capybara are semi-aquatic mammals[13] found wild in much of South America (including Panama, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Guyana, Suriname, French Guyana, Uruguay, Peru, and Paraguay[10]) in densely forested areas near bodies of water, such as lakes, rivers, swamps, ponds and marshes,[11] as well as flooded savannah and along rivers in tropical forest.[15] They roam in home ranges of 25–50 acres (10–20 ha).[16] Many escapees from captivity can also be found in similar watery habitats around the world. Though it has been erroneously stated that a population of capybara existed in the River Arno in Florence, Italy, this was determined to be the nutria or coypu (Myocastor coypus), a considerably smaller South American aquatic rodent with a similar appearance.


Capybara is an herbivore, grazing mainly on grasses and aquatic plants,[5][11] as well as fruit and tree bark.[13] An adult capybara will eat 6 to 8 pounds (2.7 to 3.6 kg) of grasses per day.[16] Capybara's jaw hinge is non-perpendicular and they thus chew food by grinding back and forth rather than side-to-side.[8]

Capybaras are coprophagous, meaning they eat their own faeces as a source of bacterial gut flora and in order to help digest the cellulose in the grass that forms their normal diet and extract the maximum protein from their food. Additionally, they may regurgitate food to masticate the food again, similar to cud-chewing by a cow.[17]


Capybara lounging in a shallow pool in captivity

Capybaras are social animals, usually found in groups, between 10 and 30 (though larger groups of up to 100 sometimes can be formed),[15] controlled by a dominant male[11] (who will have a prominent scent gland on his nose[15] used for smearing his scent on the grasses in his territory.)[10] They communicate through a combination of scent and sound, being very vocal animals with purrs and alarm barks,[15] whistles and clicks, squeals and grunts.[10]

Capybaras are excellent swimmers and can survive completely underwater for up to five minutes,[11] an ability they will use to evade predators.[citation needed] If necessary, a Capybara can sleep underwater, keeping its nose just at the waterline.[citation needed]

During midday, as temperatures increase, Capybaras wallow in water and graze in late afternoons and early evenings when it is cooler. They sleep little, usually dozing off and on throughout the day and grazing into and through the night.[15]

Capybara Ueno Zoo 2009.ogv
A Capybara yawns at Ueno Zoo.


They have a life span of 4–8 years in the wild[citation needed] but average a life less than four years as they are "a favourite food of jaguar, puma, ocelot, eagle and caiman".[10] The capybara is the preferred prey of the anaconda, the heaviest snake on Earth, which can reach a length of 7.5 metres.


Capybara are not on the IUCN list[9] and therefore not considered a threatened species; their population is stable through most of their South American ranges, though in some areas hunting has reduced their numbers.[10][11]

Capybaras are hunted for their meat and pelts in some areas,[7] and otherwise killed by humans who see their grazing as competition for livestock. The skins are particularly prized for making fine gloves because of its unusual characteristic of stretching in just one direction.[5][18] In some areas they are farmed, which has the effect of ensuring that the wetland habitats are protected. Their survival is aided by their ability to breed rapidly.[10]

Capybaras can be found in many areas in zoos and parks,[8][11][13][19][20][21][22][23] sometimes allowed to roam freely and may live for 12 years in captivity.[10][15]

Human interaction

A group of capybaras at Hato La Fe in the Los Llanos region of Venezuela

Capybaras are gentle and will usually allow humans to pet and hand-feed them. Capybara skin is tough, and in some areas where capybaras are wild, they are hunted for meat and their skin, which is turned into a high-quality leather,[10] while some ranchers hunt them for fear of the competition for grazing. The meat is said to look and taste like pork.[6] The capybara meat is dried and salted, then shredded and seasoned.[24] Considered a delicacy, it is often served with rice and plantains.[25][26]

During the Christian observation of Lent, capybara meat is especially popular as it is claimed that the Catholic church, in a special dispensation, classified the animal as a fish. (cf. Barnacle goose) There are differing accounts of how the dispensation arose. The most cited refers to a group of sixteenth-century missionaries who made a request which implied that the semi-aquatic capybara might be a "fish" and also hinted that there would be an issue with starvation if the animal weren't classified as suitable for Lent.[6][16][24][25]

Capybaras are occasionally kept as pets in the United States[27] and in Canada.


  1. ^ a b Charles A. Woods and C. William Kilpatrick (2005-11-16). Wilson, D. E., and Reeder, D. M. (eds). ed. Mammal Species of the World (3rd edition ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-801-88221-4. 
  2. ^ Queirolo, D., Vieira, E. & Reid, F. (2008). Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 5 January 2009.
  3. ^ a b Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris (capybara). University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved on December 16, 2007.
  4. ^ Darwin, Charles R. (1839), Narrative of the surveying voyages of His Majesty's Ships Adventure and Beagle between the years 1826 and 1836, describing their examination of the southern shores of South America, and the Beagle's circumnavigation of the globe. Journal and remarks. 1832-1836., London: Henry Colburn, pp. 619 
    In page 57, Darwin says "The largest gnawing animal in the world, the Hydrochærus Capybara (the water-hog), is here also common."
    See it also in The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online
  5. ^ a b c (Spanish) J Forero-Montana, J Betancur, J Cavelier. "Dieta del capibara Hydrochaeris hydrochaeris (cavia: Hydrochaeridae) en Caño Limón, Arauca, Colombia", Rev. biol. trop, Jun. 2003, vol.51, no.2, pp. 571–578. ISSN 0034-7744. PDF available (English translation)
  6. ^ a b c d e f Capybara Natural History. Retrieved on December 16, 2007.
  7. ^ a b "Trip to South America gives new meaning to outdoors life" from (Link last retrieved/verified 17 January 2008)
  8. ^ a b c d Capybara. San Francisco Zoo. Retrieved on December 17, 2007.
  9. ^ a b c Capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris). Chester Zoo (UK). Retrieved on December 17, 2007
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Capybara. Bristol Zoo Gardens (UK). Retrieved on December 16, 2007.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Capybara Facts. Smithsonian National Zoological Park. Retrieved on December 16, 2007.
  12. ^ a b The Encyclopædia Britannica (1910) Capybara (from Google Books)
  13. ^ a b c d Capybara. Palm Beach Zoo. Retrieved on December 17, 2007.
  14. ^
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Capybara. British Broadcasting Corp.: Science and Nature: Animals. Retrieved on December 16, 2007.
  16. ^ a b c d e f Capybara fact sheet
  17. ^ a b Capybara Foraging and Feeding Behavior
  18. ^ Smith, N. J. H. (1981). "Caimans capybaras otters manatees and man in amazonia." Biological Conservation 19(3): 177-187.
  19. ^ Jerusalem Biblical Zoo - Capybara
  20. ^ Saint Louis Zoo, Capybara
  21. ^ Philadelphia Zoo, Overview & Mission
  22. ^ San Diego Zoo
  23. ^ Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Capybara
  24. ^ a b Lipske, Michael. The Ranchers' Favorite Rodent. National Wildlife Federation (Feb/Mar 2006, vol. 44 no. 2)
  25. ^ a b Ellsworth, Brian. "In Days Before Easter, Venezuelans Tuck Into Rodent-Related Delicacy". New York Sun(March 24, 2005)
  26. ^ Romero, Simon (March 21, 2007), "In Venezuela, Rodents Can Be a Delicacy", The New York Times,, retrieved 2008-03-18 
  27. ^ Lombardi, Linda (7 February 2010). "Tropical capybaras not ideal pets for everyone: Rodents of Unusual Size". Montgomery Advertiser. Retrieved 8 February 2010. 

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

CAPYBARA, or Carpincho (Hydrochaerus capybara), the largest living rodent mammal, characterized by its moderately long limbs, partially-webbed toes, of which there are four in front and three behind, hoof-like nails, sparse hair, short ears, cleft upper lip and the absence of a tail. The dentition is peculiar on account of the great size and complexity of the last upper molar, which is composed of about twelve plates, and exceeds in length the three teeth in front. The front surface of the incisors has a broad, shallow groove. Capybaras are aquatic rodents, frequenting the banks of lakes and rivers, and being sometimes found where the water is brackish. They generally associate in herds, and spend most of the day in covert on the banks, feeding in the evening and morning. When disturbed they make for the water, in which they swim and dive with expertness, often remaining below the surface for several minutes. Their usual food consists of water-plants and bark, but in cultivated districts they do much harm to crops. Their cry is a low, abrupt grunt. From five to eight is the usual number in a litter, of which there appears to be only one in the year; and the young are carried on their parent's back when in the water. Extinct species of capybara occur in the tertiary deposits of Argentina, some of which were considerably larger than the living form. Capybaras belong to the family Caviidae, the leading characteristics of which are given in Rodentia. When full-grown the entire length of the animal is about 4 ft., and the girth 3 ft. Their geographical range extends from Guiana to the river Plate. Capybaras can be easily tamed; numbers are killed on land by jaguars and in the water by caimans - the alligators of South America.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also capybara



Capybara n

  1. capybara

Simple English

Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Suborder: Hystricomorpha
Family: Caviidae
Genus: Hydrochoerus
Species: H. hydrochaeris
Binomial name
Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris
(Linnaeus, 1766)

Capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) is a semi-aquatic rodent of South America. It weighs about a hundred pounds, and is about 2 feet tall at the shoulder.


The capybara is the world's largest rodent. It is closely related to guinea pigs and to chincillas. When capybaras are full grown they weigh about 55 kg, or 100 pounds. The capybara's stocky body is about a meter, or 3 feet, long, and its shoulder is about 60 centimeters, or about two feet, high off the ground. Females are usually bigger and heavier than males. Capybaras have brown or reddish-brown fur. When they are old their fur is thin, their skin can get sunburned easily. Their eyes and ears and nostrils are high on their heads, so they can easily be kept above water when the capybara is swimming.


Capybaras live in grassy wetlands or close to rivers in many parts of South America. In the morning, evening, and at night they eat grass, mostly on land. They spend the hottest hours of the day in the water. They are good swimmers and divers. Webs between their toes help them swim. They can only hold their breath under water for about five minutes at a time. Sometimes they hide in water for much longer, with only their noses sticking out to breathe. Many predators like to eat them. They are a favorite food for jaguars, eagles, anaconda snakes, and many other animals.

Capybaras eat plants, mostly grass. Their babies are usually born in litters of four at one time. They can start to eat grass once they are about a week old, but they will also keep nursing from their mothers and even from other grown females until they are about four months old. They live in large groups, usually 10-30 capybaras together. Some groups have even had 100 capybaras. They talk to each other using many sounds: clicks, grunts, whistles, and barks.

Conservation and Contact with Humans

Capybaras are not endangered. Their population is stable, not increasing or decreasing very much. Sometimes humans eat capybaras. They are hunted for meat, and sometimes they are raised on farms. Also, their tough skin is sometimes used to make high quality leather, especially for gloves. Some capybaras are even raised as pets, like guinea pigs.

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