Share animal photographs or incredible animal facts.

Unknown Facts About Capybaras: The Biggest Rodents on Earth

Facts and Information About Capybaras
Capybaras are extremely cute animals that are known as the biggest rodents in the world. AnimalSake presents some interesting facts about these delightful animals and their life in the wild.
Priyanka Athavale
Last Updated: Jun 7, 2017
Can't hear you!
When they are swimming, Capybaras fold their ears and close them so as to prevent water from entering. It looks like they are trying to block out the world around them and enjoy a leisurely dip!
They are known as the 'Largest Rodent in the World'. They are extremely cute, lovable, and have a greater emotional intelligence than even most people. They are the Capybaras. These animals are the closest relatives of guinea pigs. Their scientific name is Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris. They are also known as 'water pigs' because they look like hogs, size-wise, and they love the water.
These animals are very cute looking, and their popularity as potential pets is on the rise in recent times. We bring you some basic facts about Capybaras as wild animals, so that you know what they are, how they live, and what their temperament is like.
Capybaras are big animals. They stand between 18 to 22 inches tall, and weigh about 150 pounds on an average. They have long hair that is long, coarse, and fine. Their coat is single-layered. The fact that makes Capybaras so cute is that they look like giant guinea pigs. They have small eyes, tiny ears, and a big snout; they are huge on the adorability factor.
One interesting fact about Capys is their teeth. Like many rodents and rabbits, their teeth keep growing throughout their lives. They need to eat food like hay and twigs to wear the teeth down, otherwise they grow too long and damage the jaw. Another tidbit is that the placement of the Capybaras' eyes and nose is on the upper side so that they can see and breathe while submerged in water! They have webbed feet, which aids them in swimming and walking on swampy ground.
Capybaras swimming in water
Capybaras are native to the Savannah regions and rainforests of South America and Southern Central America. They are found in Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay, Guyana, Paraguay, Venezuela, Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia, Panama, etc. They commonly inhabit dense forests, swamplands, marshes, and rivers. They are semi-aquatic creatures that spend a great deal of time in the water.
Grazing wild Capybaras
Capybaras are herbivores, and eat a variety of grasses and plants. They require 6 to 8 pounds of food daily. They are very picky eaters, and do not graze on all types of grasses. They are selective about food, and will pick out the grass or plant that they want to graze on from amongst all the vegetation. They also like feeding on aquatic plants. They change their diet as per the season. For example, more plants and reeds in the dry season, whereas more grasses and aquatic plants in the wet season.
Capybaras also practice coprophagy, meaning that they consume their night feces for obtaining essential nutrients like vitamins and proteins, and to replenish the gut bacteria in their bodies, which is required to digest the complex food that they consume. Sometimes, they also regurgitate their food, like cows. One little fun fact about Capybaras is that they grind their food in a front and back motion because of the structure of their jaws!
Behavioral Adaptations
Wild Capybara herd
Capybaras have a rather even temperament; they are generally quite animals unless provoked. They are extremely social and live in groups of 5 to 20. Researchers have found rare groups having members numbering to a hundred! The pack consists of one dominant male, a number of females, their young, and a few young males. The young males stay on the outer boundaries of the pack to keep a lookout for predators. If the pack falls under attack, then the Capys huddle together, facing outward, and hide their babies in the center.
Capybaras are quite territorial, and their 'areas' tend to remain consistent for a long time. Territories range between 10 to 50 acres, but can expand more. They are also quite possessive of their pack. Young males that have come of age are usually forced to leave the group by the dominant male. Most normally comply, but there is a rare one that likes to fight. Whoever wins stays, and the other has to leave. The dominant male gets more females than the other males. Hierarchy is present in these packs.
Capybaras are crepuscular by behavior, which means that they hunt after sunset and early in the morning. In areas where they are hunted by humans, they adapt and become nocturnal, hiding during the day. These are not hibernating creatures. They are very much out and about during winter. They find sunny areas to keep warm in cold seasons, and remain in the water for most of the time during the hot seasons.
Capybaras are quite expressive and vocal. They make a variety of sounds under different circumstances. For example, if a predator encroaches on their territory, the subordinate males of the pack emit warning barks. Males make chattering noises when they want to scare away an encroacher, or when challenged to a fight by another male. It is a display of aggression. Babies purr consistently to stay in touch with the grownups. These animals also emit sounds like whistles, squeals, clicks, and grunts!
Capybaras hide and sleep in the water if feeling threatened. They have a scent gland on their nose that they use to mark their territories. It is present in both males and females, but males utilize it more.
Female Capybara with babies
The mating ritual of Capybaras takes place inside the water. A female comes in heat every 7 days, and the estrous cycle lasts for only about 8 hours. The female has a gestation period of 5 months, after which the babies are born. One litter typically has 1 to 5 babies. They weigh just about 3 pounds at birth! The little ones can begin seeing within a few hours of their birth, and begin grazing on grass in a few days. They are nursed for about 16 weeks.
One fact about Capybaras is that they undertake communal nursing, which means that all the babies are nursed by all the females. This helps in keeping the young ones from getting lost, and protecting them in case they lose their mother. Baby Capybaras can't swim for at least a few weeks; hence, they remain hidden in the grass. Despite this, they still become easy targets for predators. Capybara babies are extremely cute, and very very cuddle-worthy.
The lifespan of Capybaras in the wild is 8 to 10 years. However, they live longer if domesticated and taken proper care of. Capybaras need to maintain the length of their teeth; one common health problem in these animals is overgrown teeth. The lower incisors sometimes go through the upper jaw, causing injury and pain. This is seen in most old or ill rodents.
Capybaras are a famous totem animal. They symbolize having wisdom of water, wisdom of how to survive in dangerous terrain, hiding effectively despite the dangers of being seen, being gentle and social, and making the situation work in your favor instead of complaining about it. Capybaras are very intelligent and emotionally evolved animals that have a greater sense of how to live than most other animals.
Conservation Status
The IUCN currently lists Capybaras in the 'Least Concern' category. However, they were once critically endangered and very close to extinction, somewhere around the 20th century, when they were extensively hunted for their meat and skin. Their skin is used to make a very unique quality of leather. Soon after, there were many restrictions and bans placed on their hunting to protect their numbers from dwindling further. Their population is now back to a reasonable number.
It can be said that Capybaras are very evolved animals. They have a very well-set lifestyle, and the moral support that they provide each other in the pack is astounding to see. We can sure learn a few things from these wise creatures.