The capybara is the world's largest rodent. It is closely related to guinea pigs and to chinchillas. 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 [change]
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.if treated with respect they can become very loyal and rewarding pets.
- "Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.1. International Union for Conservation of Nature. 2008. http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/10300. Retrieved 17 June 2011.
- Capybara. San Francisco Zoo. Retrieved on December 17, 2007.