15 Facts About Capybaras You Might Not Believe
If a hamster and a pig had a baby, you'd get something that looked a lot like a capybara. These unusual looking creatures are a lot like guinea pigs, only about 50 times bigger.
Armed with these 15 capybara facts, you'll know a thing or two about them the next time you see one at the zoo.
Capybaras Are the Biggest Rodents on Earth
If you thought beavers were big, wait until you hear how big a capybara is. Capybaras are the biggest rodents in the world, weighing up to 150 pounds and standing about two feet tall at the shoulders.
So, yes, if you're a somewhat petite adult, you might be smaller than a rodent.
Capybaras Love to Swim
Capybaras love to swim so much that they're considered semi-aquatic. They live their entire lives near water, spending most of their time lounging in areas of sheltered vegetation near lakes, rivers, swamps and marshes.
They're even known to sleep in the water, floating with only their nostrils above the surface. This both helps them stay cool and makes it harder for predators to spot them.
They Even Have Webbed Toes to Help Them Swim
Capybaras are like fluffy rodent ducks. They have partially webbed feet to make it easier to paddle around. That's not the only adaptation they have for life in the water, either.
Their long fur doesn't absorb much water, so it dries quickly when they return to land. Their facial features are also arranged high on their heads so that they can stay aware of their surroundings while most of their body is hidden from view.
The Capybara Morning Meal Includes Poo
It's gross, but many rodents eat their own feces. Rabbits and guinea pigs do it, too.
Capybara poo is the richest in protein in the morning thanks to the digestion of all of the previous day's meals, so that's when capybaras typically chow down on a gourmet turd or two.
This aids in the digestion of tough, fibrous grasses and plants.
Capybaras Live All Over South America
Capybaras are found across much of South America. If you visit Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Peru, Brazil, Paraguay, Northeast Argentina or Uruguay, you'll probably spot a wild capybara.
They're Cousins of Guinea Pigs
Capybaras look like giant guinea pigs, and they pretty much are. Capybaras and guinea pigs are both in the Cavy (Caviidae) family, containing 14 different rodent species from South America.
Capybaras are also distantly related to the fluffy-faced chinchilla.
Their Teeth Grow Throughout Their Lives
Like rabbits, Capybaras have two giant front teeth. These incisors never stop growing, so capybaras have to continue chewing on tough grasses and bark to keep them from growing too long.
Their molars grow throughout life as well, but much more slowly.
Capybaras Like Company
Capybaras would not have been happy during lockdown. Capybaras are extremely social creatures. They can survive alone, but they settle in groups of at least 10. Some capybara groups include dozens of capybaras.
Each group is stable and collaborative, helping each other secure a sizable territory, find food and protect young from predators. Female capybaras also take turns nursing each other's babies, who are usually all born around the same time.
Capybaras Talk to Each Other
Capybaras make all kinds of cute noises to communicate with each other. Baby capybaras in particular make squeaks and squeals to communicate with their mothers.
The Loaf-Shaped Capybara Makes an Ideal Chair
There's a reason zookeepers call capybaras "nature's ottoman." Birds love to lounge on their backs, and capybaras don't mind a bit. In fact, they appreciate it.
The birds eat bugs off the capybara's back, keeping them free from pests.
They're Surprisingly Fast
Capybaras might not look aerodynamic, but they can run up to 21 mph. That's about as fast as most pet dogs.
They are also extremely agile, which helps them escape predators.
Capybaras Can Get Scurvy
Like humans and most other mammals, capybaras can't produce their own vitamin C. Instead, they rely on their vegetarian diet to provide enough vitamins and minerals.
Capybaras bred in captivity are prone to developing scurvy if they're not given vitamin C supplements.
Jaguars Think of Them As Snacks
While capybaras are much larger than guinea pigs, they're still prey animals. They're a favorite snack of jaguars, ocelots, pumas, caimans and anacondas.
Capybaras Can Live Up to 12 Years
Most capybaras in captivity live between 8-10 years, but they can live up to 12.
In the wild, they rarely last more than four years due to predation.
Capybaras Are Occasionally Kept as Pets
The capybara is a pack animal, so it needs tons of attention and companionship. This is very difficult to replicate, but some people try anyway. While capybaras are illegal in many states, some allow them to be kept as pets.
Pet capybaras need tons of space, tons of food and lots of specialized care. Unless you're ready to become a full-time capybara keeper, we recommend visiting one at the zoo instead.