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15 Capybara Facts That Will Make You Love Them Even More

Written By Anne Kostick
Last updated: May 29, 2024

Let’s take a closer look at capybaras, those intriguing creatures that never fail to capture our interest. We often see them lounging by the water, but there’s so much more to these gentle giants. Did you know they can weigh up to 140 pounds?

Their sociable nature and unique adaptations make them truly special. From their webbed feet to their friendly interactions with humans and other animals, there’s a lot to uncover about capybaras.

What else makes them stand out in the animal kingdom? Join us as we explore 15 fascinating facts about these remarkable rodents.

Here Are The 15 Capybara Facts

Let’s explore some fascinating facts about capybara. They’re the world’s largest rodents, weighing up to 140 pounds, and they spend a lot of time both in and out of water. Capybaras live in large groups called herds and are known for being friendly and non-aggressive towards humans.

1. World’s largest rodent, weighing up to 140 pounds

As the world’s largest rodent, capybaras can weigh up to an impressive 140 pounds. That’s heavier than most dogs and even some people! These sizable creatures belong to the rodent family, making them relatives of smaller animals like rats and guinea pigs. Their weight is supported by a strong, barrel-shaped body and sturdy legs, which help them move efficiently both on land and in water.

Capybaras have a unique build that suits their lifestyle perfectly. Their broad heads and blunt noses are adapted for grazing on grasses and aquatic plants, which make up the bulk of their diet. Their eyes, ears, and nostrils are located high on their heads, allowing them to keep most of their body submerged while staying alert to their surroundings.

Another interesting fact about capybaras is their social nature. They live in groups, usually consisting of 10 to 20 individuals, but can sometimes form larger herds. This social structure helps them protect each other from predators and find food more efficiently.

2. Semi-aquatic, spending time in and out of water

Capybaras thrive in both terrestrial and aquatic environments, effortlessly moving between land and water. These remarkable creatures are well-suited to a semi-aquatic lifestyle, thanks to several unique adaptations.

Capybara Facts: Semi-aquatic

For instance, their webbed feet help them swim efficiently, allowing them to navigate rivers, lakes, and marshes with ease. When they dive underwater, they can stay submerged for up to five minutes, which helps them evade predators and stay cool in hot weather.

We can often find capybaras grazing on land near water sources, munching on grasses and aquatic plants. Their semi-aquatic nature also means they’re excellent at finding food both in and out of the water. This dual ability ensures they have a consistent food supply throughout the year, even during the dry season when water levels drop.

Capybaras’ eyes, earsand nostrils are located high on their heads, allowing them to keep most of their bodies submerged while still being able to see, hear, and breathe. This physical trait makes them well-equipped to be on the lookout for danger while enjoying the water. Their semi-aquatic lifestyle is a key part of what makes them so fascinating.

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3. Live in large groups, known as herds

Living in large groups, known as herds, these social creatures display a fascinating sense of community and cooperation. Capybaras often live in groups of 10 to 20 individuals, though herds can sometimes get even larger. These groups usually include a mix of males, females, and their offspring. By living in herds, capybaras can better protect themselves from predators like jaguars, anacondas, and caimans. The more eyes and ears they have, the easier it is to detect danger early.

In their herds, capybaras have a clear social structure. There’s usually a dominant male who leads the group and has mating rights with many of the females. The dominant male will often mark his territory with scent glands to keep other males away. Subordinate males and females also have their roles, helping to look after the young and alerting the group to potential threats.

Living in herds also allows capybaras to share resources, like food and grooming. They love to eat grasses and aquatic plants, and by staying in groups, they can find enough food for everyone.

4. Friendly and non-aggressive towards humans

Known for their friendly and non-aggressive nature, capybaras often form remarkable bonds with humans. These gentle giants are naturally sociable animals, and their calm demeanor makes them great companions.

Capybara Facts: Friendly and non-aggressive

When we interact with capybaras, they usually respond positively, showing curiosity and even affection. Their easygoing temperament allows them to get along well with people, making them popular residents in zoos and animal sanctuaries.

Capybaras are also known for their patience and tolerance. They rarely show signs of aggression, even when they’re approached by strangers. This makes them an ideal animal for educational programs where children and adults can learn about wildlife up close. Because they’re so docile, it’s not unusual for people to pet and feed them without any issues.

Also Read: Narcissus Flower, Plant Meaning, Facts and Symbolism

5. Excellent swimmers, with webbed feet

In addition to their friendly nature, these gentle creatures are also excellent swimmers, thanks to their webbed feet. Capybaras have specially adapted feet that help them navigate through water with ease. Their webbed toes make them powerful swimmers, allowing them to move efficiently and gracefully in rivers, ponds, and marshes.

We can often find capybaras near water bodies, as they rely on aquatic environments for many aspects of their lives. Their webbed feet not only aid in swimming but also provide stability and traction while walking on muddy or slippery surfaces. This adaptation is essential for their survival, especially in the wild where escaping predators quickly can be a matter of life or death.

Capybaras’ swimming skills also play an important role in their daily activities. They often submerge themselves in water to keep cool, especially in hot weather. Additionally, swimming helps them forage for aquatic plants and other food sources, making it a necessary part of their diet.

6. Can hold their breath for several minutes

Capybaras can submerge themselves underwater for several minutes, an impressive feat that aids in their survival. This ability allows them to escape predators and stay safe. When danger approaches, they can immerse themselves in the water and remain submerged, almost like they’re playing hide-and-seek with their enemies. They can hold their breath for up to five minutes, giving them plenty of time to stay hidden or swim away to safety.

Living near water sources like rivers, lakes, and marshes, capybaras are well-adapted to an amphibious lifestyle. Their bodies are designed to make the most of their aquatic environment. Their eyes, ears, and nostrils are positioned on top of their heads, allowing them to see, hear, and breathe while the rest of their body remains underwater. This feature is especially useful when they need to stay alert for any signs of danger.

7. Have a symbiotic relationship with birds

Many birds form a symbiotic relationship with capybaras, benefiting both species in remarkable ways. Capybaras often serve as a perch for birds like the yellow-headed caracara, cattle egret, and various small songbirds.

Capybara Facts: symbiotic relationship with birds

These birds help capybaras by eating parasites such as ticks and other insects from their fur. This grooming behavior keeps the capybaras healthier and more comfortable, reducing the risk of infections and diseases.

In return, the birds get an easy meal and a safe place to rest. Being on a capybara allows them to reach more insects without much effort. This relationship is a great example of mutualism, where both parties gain something valuable.

The birds also act as an early warning system for the capybaras, alerting them to potential predators nearby. When the birds take flight suddenly, it can signal the presence of danger, giving the capybaras a chance to escape.

8. Unique gland produces scent for communication

While birds keep capybaras free of parasites, these social animals also rely on a unique gland to produce scents for communication. Capybaras have a special gland called the morillo, located on the top of their snouts. This gland plays an essential role in their social interactions, allowing them to mark their territory and convey important information to other capybaras.

The morillo gland secretes a thick, oily substance with a distinctive scent. Capybaras rub this secretion on objects like trees, rocks, and even each other to establish their presence and communicate their identity. This scent marking helps them keep track of group members and maintain social bonds, which is vital for their well-being.

Additionally, male capybaras have another gland located near their anus called the anal gland. This gland also contributes to their scent-marking behaviors, especially during mating season. The combination of these glands allows capybaras to send complex messages about their reproductive statussocial hierarchy, and more.

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9. Herbivores, feeding on grasses and plants

These fascinating creatures thrive on a diet primarily composed of grasses and aquatic plants. As herbivores, capybaras spend a significant portion of their day grazing on various types of vegetation. They prefer grasses, which provide them with the necessary nutrients to maintain their health. Additionally, capybaras often munch on aquatic plants found in their wetland habitats, making them well-suited to their environment.

Capybara Facts: Herbivores

Capybaras have a unique digestive system that allows them to extract maximum nutrition from their fibrous diet. Their stomachs are highly specialized for breaking down tough plant material. They also practice a behavior called coprophagy, where they eat their own feces to re-digest and extract more nutrients. This may sound unappealing to us, but it’s essential for their survival.

Another interesting aspect of their diet is their need for constant chewing. Capybaras’ teeth continuously grow, so they must keep them worn down by gnawing on various plants. This constant chewing helps prevent their teeth from becoming too long, which could cause health issues.

10. Lifespan of 8 to 10 years in the wild

Capybaras, thriving on their herbivorous diet, typically live for about 8 to 10 years in the wild. This lifespan is fairly average for rodents of their size and gives them ample time to reproduce and contribute to their ecosystem.

In the wild, capybaras face various challenges, such as predators and environmental changes, which can impact their longevity. However, their social structure and group living provide some protection and increase their chances of survival.

Living in groups, usually consisting of 10 to 20 members, helps capybaras detect predators more effectively. They rely on each other for safety, and this communal living can enhance their overall lifespan. Predators like jaguars, eagles, and caimans pose significant threats, but capybaras’ ability to communicate and warn each other of danger is an important survival tactic.

11. Native to South America, inhabiting diverse habitats

Native to South America, capybaras thrive in a variety of habitats, from dense rainforests to open grasslands. These adaptable creatures are most commonly found near bodies of water like rivers, lakes, and marshes. They have a strong preference for areas with abundant water sources because they’re excellent swimmers and use water to escape predators.

Capybara Facts: Native to South America

In the Amazon Basin, capybaras enjoy the tropical climate and the lush vegetation that provides both food and shelter. They also inhabit the savannas, where they graze on grasses and water plants. These regions provide the open spaces they need to forage and the water bodies essential for their survival.

Capybaras can be found in countries like Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, and Argentina. They live in family groups and are known to adapt to both forested areas and wetlands. Their ability to thrive in diverse environments demonstrates their resilience and versatility.

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12. Relaxed and chill nature, often lounging

Known for their laid-back demeanor, capybaras often spend their days lounging and relaxing near water. These semi-aquatic mammals are usually found in groups, enjoying the company of their fellow capybaras. Their relaxed nature makes them seem almost carefree as they bask in the sun or take a dip in the water to cool off. Capybaras are social animals, and their calm disposition often extends to interactions with other species.

In their natural habitats, capybaras can be seen lying on the riverbanks, letting the warm sun dry their fur after a swim. Their love for water isn’t just for cooling down; it also helps them evade predators. When they feel threatened, they can quickly slip into the water and stay submerged for several minutes.

Capybaras’ chill nature is also evident in their daily routines. They spend a significant amount of time grazing on grasses and aquatic plants, taking breaks to rest and socialize. Their slow and steady pace of life allows them to conserve energy and stay safe. This easygoing lifestyle is a key factor in their survival, helping them thrive in various environments.

13. Thick fur provides warmth in cooler climates

With their thick fur, capybaras stay warm even in cooler climates. This fur acts like a built-in jacket, providing insulation against lower temperatures. The dense coat traps a layer of air close to their skin, which helps to retain body heat. This natural feature is particularly useful for capybaras living in regions where the temperature can drop considerably.

Interestingly, capybara fur isn’t just about warmth. It also plays a role in their overall health. The fur helps to keep their skin dry, which can be important when they spend a lot of time in water. By keeping their skin dry, their fur helps to prevent infections and other skin issues.

We can see how their fur adapts based on their environment. In warmer climates, capybaras might shed some of their fur to stay cool, but in cooler areas, they’ll maintain a thick coat to make sure they don’t lose too much body heat. This adaptability makes capybaras quite resilient and capable of thriving in various environments.

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14. The scientific name translates to “water pig.”

Capybaras not only have fascinating fur adaptations but also an intriguing scientific name, Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris, which translates to ‘water pig.’ This name gives us a clue about these animals’ close relationship with water.

Capybara Facts: scientific name translates to water pig

Capybaras are excellent swimmers, and their bodies are perfectly designed for a semi-aquatic lifestyle. They’ve slightly webbed feet, which help them navigate through water with ease. Additionally, their eyes, ears, and nostrils are located high on their heads, allowing them to see, hear, and breathe while mostly submerged.

The term ‘water pig’ is quite fitting because capybaras spend a significant amount of time in and around water. Whether it’s a river, pond, or swamp, these animals feel right at home. They often enter the water to cool off, escape from predators, or simply relax. Their ability to stay underwater for up to five minutes also helps them evade threats.

15. Classified as “Least Concern” by IUCN

Why are capybaras classified as ‘Least Concern‘ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)? The IUCN assesses the conservation status of species based on several criteria, including population sizerate of decline, and geographic range. Capybaras have a stable and widespread population, which is why they fall under the ‘Least Concern’ category.

First, capybaras are highly adaptable animals. They live in various habitats like forests, grasslands, and wetlands. This adaptability helps them thrive in different environments.

Second, they have a strong reproductive rate. Female capybaras can give birth to multiple pups at a time, usually twice a year. This high reproduction rate ensures their population remains stable.

Additionally, capybaras don’t face significant threats from predators. While they do have natural predators like jaguars and anacondas, their large size and social behavior offer protection. Humans haven’t had a major negative impact on their population either.

Charles Eames

Anne Kostick has been Editor-in-Chief since September 2007. Previously, Anne was a principal at Foxpath IND, a publishing, consulting and editorial services company specializing in the transition to and from traditional content publishing and online content management, development and publishing. Her clients included trade book publishers, technology and financial services Web sites, and arts and cultural institutions. Previously, she worked as Licensing and Product Development Director, Senior Acquisitions Editor and Director of Electronic Publishing for Workman Publishing, and as Senior Acquisitions Editor for Harry N. Abrams/Stewart, Tabori & Chang. In the online world she worked as Director of Content Development for Anne has a B.A. in Greek and Latin, with a minor in Theater, from Beloit College. She is the author of several books for children, as well as a definitive collection of jokes.

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