What is the Capybara?

By Marla Lise

Capybara in Peru. Photo by Marla Lise.


Scientific Name: Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris

The capybara is the largest rodent in the world. Think of it as a very, very large guinea pig, one as big as a dog.

Capybaras are found all over South America, except for Chile. In some areas there are so many of them, they are even considered a pest. For example, in 1999 scientists found 12.5 capybaras per hectare in the Brazilian Pantanal. In other areas, such as in some parts of the Amazon, capybaras can be quite rare.

Capybaras have barrel-shaped bodies with small eyes on the top of their heads, which allow them to peek over the top of the water when they are submerged. They are good swimmers and can hold their breath for up to five minutes.

Capybaras are sociable animals, traveling in groups with up to 100 individuals. They live near the water and feed on grasses and aquatic plants.

Although this species is hunted for its meat and fur and also sometimes kept as pets, the capybara is not threatened.







Mother capybara with baby
Mother capybara with baby


Capybara leaving water with a bird on its back
Capybara leaving water with a bird on its back
Location: Tambopata rainforest


Capybara crossing a road
Capybara crossing a road



Capybara at sunset



Animal profiles

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Asian black bear
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Capybara [2nd profile]
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