Genus: Dolichotis patagonum
Life Span: Generally not more than 10 years.
Diet: Their diet consists of any available vegetation.
Description: Cavy bodies are similar to that of long-legged rabbits and hares. The hind limbs are long, the hind foot has 3 digits, and each digit has a hoof-like claw. The forefoot has four digits, each one bearing a sharp claw, and the soles of the feet are covered in hair. Head and body length is between 2 – 2 1/2 feet; tail about 2 inches; weight: 20 and 35 lbs. Like all rodents, their teeth never stop growing.
Range/Habitat: Cavies can be found over most of South America, including Central and southernArgentina. Cavies inhabit arid regions. They shelter in burrows that they’ve dug, or in the abandoned holes of other animals. They are terrestrial (meaning they dwell on the ground) and diurnal (meaning they are active during the daylight hours).
Reproduction: Cavies breed throughout the year and can produce up to 3 or 4 litters annually. There is usually a 3 month interval between litters during the winter months, and 3.5 months during the summer. Litters generally contain 2 young, but sometimes may have 1 or 3. Babies are born outside of the burrows, but move inside shortly afterward. They are well developed at birth, their eyes are open and they can move about freely. They are weaned by the age of 11 weeks, and females are capable of producing litters as early as 8 months.
Family Life: The family consists of 17 species which includes: Guinea Pigs and Capybara. Three or four wild individuals may be seen traveling together, but occasionally groups up to 40 individuals can be observed. Groups congregate in feeding areas by day, and separate at night. There is no territoriality and the entire colony shares space. Males have a dominance hierarchy which is maintained by aggression. The basic social unit is the mated pair, and strict monogamy is practiced. The female initiates most movements, and the male follows closely behind to defend her against other males.
Nature Notes: Patagonian Cavy are also known as Patagonian Hares or Maras. They use a variety of movements: walking, hopping like a rabbit, galloping, and bouncing (on all four limbs at once). They are able to cover long distances at high speeds. They have been clocked at speeds of over 28 miles per hour for more than half a mile! At rest, they sit in a dog-like-fashion – on its haunches with its forelegs straight. Cavies also lie like a cat, with its front limbs tucked under its chest, not commonly seen in rodents. They spend most of their time basking in the sun, but are always on the alert for predators. They have a variety of vocalizations, including a "wheet" for seeking contact and a “grunt” used as a threat.
Status in the Wild: Rare. Their numbers are declining due to habitat destruction by people and by competition with introduced species such as the "European hare".