Other Common Names: Water Pig
Genus & Species: Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris
Listed as least concern by the IUCN Red List.
Northern South America east of the Andes from Panama to NE Argentina.
Lowlands from open plains to tropical rain forests, always near water. Swampy, marshy, grassy areas bordering rivers, ponds, streams, and lakes.
Crepuscular leaning towards nocturnal, sleeping very little though resting and wallowing to help stay cool much of the day. Live in small groups of about 10 individuals, made up of a dominant male, one or more females, one or more subordinate males, and several young. During the wet season, up to 40 capybaras can be found together.
8 to 10 years in the wild, can be longer in captivity.
Diet in the Wild:
Selective grazers eating 3 kg a day of mainly grasses. They also eat fruits and many reed plants found in the water, as well as other aquatic plants. They typically eat at dawn and dusk.
Diet in the Zoo:
ADF-16 Herbivore pellets, rodent block, hay, vegetables, greens, fruit, mealworms, and waxworms (insect larvae).
Largest rodent, weighing up to 165 lbs. (75 kg) and measuring 4.5 ft. (1.4 meters) long.
Resembles a cavy but larger, with shorter barrel-shaped body. Generally a reddish brown to gray long, course hair on back with lighter brown belly, sometimes black on the face, limbs or rump. They have slightly webbed toes, four on the front and three on the back. Their eyes, nostrils, and ears are found on the top of their head so the majority of their body can remain submerged below the water surface; this allows the capybara to learn about its surroundings while remaining hidden underwater.
Polygynous, where males mate with many females. Mating occurs in the water. Gestation is 150 days where 4 – 5 pups are born. Mothers will leave the group to give birth in a quiet spot. Young can follow mother and eat grass shortly after being born, they will also nurse, suckling from several females, for 16 weeks. The very young ride on female’s backs’ through water. All adult females in the group help to care for and even nurse each other’s babies.
- Ecology, Adaptations, Etc:
Home range for a group is about 50 acres (29 hectares). The young are preyed upon by many animals including caimans, ocelots, harpy eagles, and anacondas, while adults are vulnerable to jaguars and humans. Capybara can hold their breath up to 5 minutes underwater, a useful skill for reaching extra food, or avoiding predators. Like their rodent relatives, capybara front teeth grow continuously being worn down as they eat their fibrous diet. To fully digest their food capybara will regurgitate their food or even eat their own poop to gain the most nutrition they can. They communicate through a variety of sounds, including purrs, barks, yips and have a similar warning bark to that of the prairie dog. Using oils produced by a pair of scent glands on their rumps, capybaras mark territories and communicate with one another; males may event scent mark the females in their group.
Humans may come into conflict with capybara when they graze on their agriculture. Local people also occasionally hunt capybara for leather.