Scientific name: Hydrochaeris hydrochaeris
Size: Males 77-140 lbs; females 80-145 lbs; 3-4’ long; 20-24” high
Maturity: 15 months
Mating: Generally April and May
Gestation: 120-150 days (4-5 months)
No. of Young: 1-8 but usually 4 per litter
Lifestyle: Groups of 10-100 (usually 20); usually diurnal (active during daytime)
Diet: Aquatic plants, grasses, tree bark, grains, fruits
Lifespan: 8-10 years in the wild; up to 12 in captivity
Range: East of the Andes Mountains, from Central American to northern Argentina.
Because the capybara is capable of reaching 150 pounds, it bears the distinction of being the world’s largest rodent. Capybara, meaning ‘master of the grasses,’ in the Guarani Indian language, is also known as a ‘water pig’ or ‘water hog.’ They live in forests near streams, marshes and lakes where they take refuge under water if threatened. Nose, eats and eyes located near the top of their head allow for almost total submersion while maintaining awareness above the water. Nostrils close and eats fold back before complete immersion to keep water out. Webbed toes help propel this semi-aquatic mammal quite effectively through the water.
Capybaras are commercially raised for meat and leather in South America. Wild Capybaras are hunted for these reasons too, but mostly to eliminate them as agricultural pests. Capybaras compete with livestock for graze particularly during dry periods and can devastate a crop of sugar cane, watermelon, corn or any garden produce. Some South American countries have now outlawed capybara hunting. Jaguars and anacondas are the capybara’s primary natural predators.