Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris

IUCN Red List status: Least Concern

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Least Concern


Where they live

South America - Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, the Guyanas, Peru, Brazil, Paraguay, North East Argentina and Uruguay


Grassy wetland areas around lakes, rivers, swamps and marshes


60cm tall and 2m long


35 to 66kg


12 years in captivity


The biggest threat to the capybara is hunting for its meat, but farming and land clearance for agriculture are also concerns

Did you know...

  • Capybaras can hold their breath underwater for a few minutes – very useful if a jaguar is chasing you!
  • They will sleep underwater if necessary, keeping their nose just above the water line

More about Capybaras...

Capybaras are the world’s largest rodent. They have a large barrel-shaped body with a thick fur coat which ranges in colour from brown to reddish and a tough skin.

They are semi-aquatic animals and their eyes and ears are high on the head so they can easily be kept above water when swimming. They have simple webs between their toes which help propel them through water.

Capybaras are herbivorous, grazing on grasses, aquatic plants, fruits and tree bark. Their front teeth grow continuously to make up for the wear and tear of eating grasses.

Capybara means Master of the Grasses in the language of the Guarani Indians of South America.

Most activities are carried out on land using water as a refuge from predators such as jaguar, puma, ocelot, eagle and caiman. They also dig shallow holes in the ground in which to hide.

The hottest hours of the day are spent in the water. Their skin dries in hot sun which is why they like to wallow in mud.

They live in large family groups controlled by a dominant male, recognised by the large shiny gland on the bridge of the nose that is used for smearing scent onto grasses to mark his territory.

Communication is made with clicks, squeals and grunts. Scent is also an important part of their lives. Not only is it used by the dominant male but also by females to communicate that they are ready for mating. Females give birth to up to eight young after a gestation period of 130 days.

How you can help...

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