This rodent from South America is the largest in the world. A capybara can get close to 80 kg (175 pounds) but as intimidating as it might look, they are mostly shy and tame creatures.
Capybaras are the world’s largest living rodents. They are commonly called “water hogs” in South America or “Orinoca”, meaning, Hydrochoerus, water pig.
As the name suggests, they are usually found near swamps and water holes. The water provides a refuge from the midday heat. They are excellent swimmer. Capybara’s eyes and ears are positioned high on the head, so they can see and hear easily while swimming. Capybaras also have webbing between their fingers and toes, which helps them paddle. When frightened, they can remain underwater for several minutes.
During the dry season—when water holes are few and far between—as many as 30 to 50 capybaras may gather around a single mud puddle. When the rains arrive, the animals break off into smaller groups.
Typically, each family group includes one adult male and one or more females, with their young. Bachelor males often band together in separate groups. Each day the capybara troops must travel long distances in search of food. Yet they nearly always return to the same spot at night.
In some places, ranchers kill the creature just because it competes with cows and sheep for grass. As a result of overhunting, capybaras have nearly disappeared in parts of their range. Some countries, like Venezuela, have begun protecting the animal, as well as breeding it in captivity.
Capybara, Master of Grass
This giant rodents are truly “Masters of the Grass”. They are also Masters of the marshlands in their native country, South America.
Capybaras adapt very easily to the different climates in our country. The latest interest in raising capybara prompted me to write this article. Since I have received a large volume of inquiries, I thought the readers would enjoy the facts verses the myths.
The number one question is …Do capybaras make good pets?
They make great outside pets. Many people want to bring them in the house and try to “potty “train them. These are basically wild animals. They can be brought in if you want your rugs chewed, table legs gnawed, curtains pulled off the windows, and a possible mess in the floor.
Outside they swim, run, eat and lounge in the sun during the day. Feeding time is a special time for then and for you. They will stand up and beg for corn, follow you around the yard and my pet would love to get in your lap. They bond with what there are raised with at the time. More times than none it will be you.
The bathroom training is an out side pan. Capybaras are semi aquatic animals and require water for daily. Their skin requires water and warmth. The chewing is a natural thing for them. They have teeth at birth and the chewing is done to grind their teeth. If the teeth grow too quickly they will grow into the upper portion of the mouth and prevent their eating.
Do capybaras bite? YES, can bite and will do so. It is their defense for protection. Just keep your fingers away from them and do not try to grab them quickly. They prefer to initiate the affection.
Are they aggressive? ONLY if provoked by another capybara at he feeding pan. They are truly gentle giants.
Do they dig? NO, they do not dig like hogs. They will go under any possible opening and can squeeze through a small crack. If they get out it is very difficult to chase. They are really fast runners. They can turn on a dime. On occasion I have had one to climb a three foot chain link fence when the dominant male chased him.
Can they be trained? THE KEY is patience and repetitive behaviors. They respond to verbal calls, whistles and of course feed buckets. They also respond to their names as they get older. They twirl, run and stand on their hind legs for food.
What do they eat? They are GRASS lovers. They love fruits and vegetables. They drink milk replacer, puppy chow, cattle creeper pellets, rabbit pellets, rodent food, and bread.