13 Surprising Facts About Capybaras

Anatomy Capybaras are the largest rodents on earth.

They can weigh over 100 pounds (45 kg) and grow up to 4 feet (1.2 m) long and 2 feet (0.6 m) tall—much larger than their guinea pig relatives!

They have a heavy, barrel-shaped body that sits on relatively squat legs that are shorter in the front than in the back.

Their brown fur is coarse and sparse enough to reveal the gray skin underneath.

Capybara’s feet are partially webbed, so they can be propelled through water or marshy areas.

Like a hippopotamus, the capybara’s eyes, nose, and ears are located on top of its head, allowing it to look above the surface for air and a quick check for predators, while most of its body remains hidden underwater.

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Capybaras are found in Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Peru, Brazil, Paraguay, northeastern Argentina, and Uruguay.

They are semi-aquatic and will spend most of their time in dense vegetation around rivers, lakes, ponds, swamps and marshes.

Feeding mostly in the afternoon and switching on and off at night, capybaras tend to doze off in the morning.

They take short naps throughout the day while the rest of their group stays awake.

Diet They are herbivores and eat vegetation that lines water sources and other aquatic plants.

An adult capybara can eat 6 to 8 pounds (2.7 to 3.6 kg) of fresh grass per day.

They also eat their poop, which contains beneficial bacteria that help the stomach break down grass fiber.

During the dry season or drought conditions, capybaras will also eat grains, melons, reeds, and gourds.

Capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) and two babies in a lake close-up.

Threats Capybaras are naturally threatened by jaguars, caimans and anacondas, and their young can be preyed upon by ocelots and harpy eagles.

However, their main threat is humans – they are widely hunted for their meat and fur, which can be used to make leather.

Capybara farming has become common in some countries, reducing pressure on wild populations.

As with all rainforest inhabitants, deforestation is also a threat.

Did you know that when threatened, capybaras will jump into the water and hide under the surface.

They can hold their breath for almost five minutes!

They are also very vocal animals and communicate with each other by barking, chirping, whistling and purring.


Encyclopedia of Rainforests.

Capybara Facts, Smithsonian’s National Zoo website, 2007

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

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Capybara profile

Capybaras (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) are the world’s largest rodents.

They are well known for looking like giant guinea pigs.

They are from South America, where they live in both dense forests and savannas, usually near bodies of water.

They are well-known inhabitants of the Amazon, where they can be seen along the edges of rivers.

Capybara facts overview


Close to lakes, rivers, swamps and tropical rivers

8-10 years old



Grasses, aquatic plants, fruits and tree bark


Jaguars, caimans, green anacondas, cougars

Protection Status:

They are herbivores, gnawing on grass and aquatic plants, fruit and tree bark.

They are semi-aquatic and are well adapted to both land and water.

They have webbed toes and quick-drying fur, but they can also run 35 km/h on land.

They are very social, their groups can reach 100 members, but the average group size is 10-20 individuals.

They live 8-10 years.

Interesting capybara facts

1. They are the world’s largest rodents.

The largest capybara ever recorded was 91 kg (201 lbs)!

2. Capybaras are closely related to guinea pigs.

When you see them in the wild, you may be shocked at first because they look like giant guinea pigs, which are actually one of their closest relatives.

They belong to the Cavy family (Caviidae), which includes 14 species of rodents native to South America.

3. They are semi-aquatic mammals.

They live in and around lakes, rivers, swamps and tropical rivers.

They are excellent swimmers and can hold their breath for 5 minutes.

They are well adapted for this, with partially webbed toes for swimming.

Additionally, their eyes, ears, and nose are located high on their heads to protect them from predators when they are underwater.

4. Capybara can sleep in water.

They dive under water to breathe and stick their noses out at the edges of the river.

5. They can go as fast as 35 km/h.

They are also very mobile, which helps them escape from predators.

6. Their teeth grow continuously.

This is a common sign of rodents, as they constantly grind their teeth as they chew on plants.

Capybara teeth grow continuously throughout their lives to replace what they lose.

7. Capybaras are extremely picky eaters.

They tend to focus all their efforts on one type of grass, avoiding other types around it.

Like humans, they cannot make their own vitamin C, so they must consume enough of it through their diet.

Capybaras in captivity have been known to develop scurvy due to malnutrition.

9. Capybaras eat their own poop.

They do this because their feces contain bacteria that help digest the cellulose in plant matter.

Other animals like to sit on them.

Capybaras are so cold about other animals sitting on them that they have been called “moving chairs”.

It is often mutual, as the birds will eat the pests in the capybara’s fur.

They are eaten by the largest predators of the jungle.

Jaguars, ocelots, cougars, caimans and anacondas love to eat capybaras.

Check out this incredible shot of a green anaconda hunting a capybara!

Capybaras are endangered in some areas.

In some areas, they are hunted for their meat and skins, resulting in the extermination of entire local populations.

However, their population is believed to be stable.

Sometimes they are kept as pets.

Capybaras are sometimes kept as pets in the United States, although it is illegal in some states.

However, capybaras are social creatures and should not be kept alone.

Summary of Capybara Facts




Species name:

Species name:

Hydrochoerus Hydrochaeris

Factual Sources and References Rowe DL, Honeycutt RL.

Phylogenetic relationships, ecological correlates and molecular evolution within the Cavioidea (Mammalia, Rodentia).

doi: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.molbev.a004080Britannica.

capybara | Description, behavior and facts.

In Argentina, scurvy is breeding in capybaras in captivity.

doi: 10.7589/0090-3558-36.1.97

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