While many people believe that the capybara is the Brazilian official animal symbol (we clarified this on our Brazilian National Animal post), this lovely and peaceful mammal is indeed popular in the country, but not our main animal representation.
The capybara is a mammal very common in South America, often being labeled as the chillest animal on the planet due to its friendliness and kindness. The capybaras are also excellent swimmers and can be raised in a domestic environment.
In today’s post, we’re going to give you all the info you need to know about the chillest animal on the planet, the Brazilian capybara! You’ll get to know in which places in the country you can find them, what they feed on and many other curiosities and little known facts about them!
What Kind of Animal Is The Capybara?
The capybara is a type of rodent mammal from the Caviidae species and Hydrochoerinae subspecies. They are inserted in the same group as other rodents like pacas, agoutis, cavies, and guinea pigs. The capybara is considered the biggest rodent on the planet.
The capybaras are usually very calm and gentle and mostly live near lakes and rivers. Due to the fact that they need water for their main activities (like hiding from natural predators – which we’ll see more ahead and reproducing), they are considered a semiaquatic mammal.
The capybaras are very social, and although few of them choose to live away from the others, they usually go through life in groups that can reach up to 30 members. In this group, there’s only one male (as 2 or more males could cause a territorial dispute), and the rest of the pack is made of females and baby capybaras.
The name capybara (spelled “capivara” in Brazilian Portuguese) comes from the word “kapi’wara”, which means “grass eater” in Tupi (the language spoken by the indigenous natives before Brazil was invaded and colonized by Portugal in the 1500s).
Throughout Brazil, the capybaras can also be refered to as capincho, capincho, beque, trombudo, caixa, cachapu, porco-capivara, cunum and cubu, depending on the region.
How Do The Capybaras Reproduce?
The capybaras sexual maturity comes in different ages for males and females. The female capybaras completely mature between 10 months and a year, the males take a little longer, being sexually active only after 15 to 24 months of age.
They mainly reproduce in the water, in the most shallow portions of lakes and ponds. The females have a high fertility rate, and after 120 days of pregnancy (some can reach 5 full months), they give birth to an average of 3 to 5 baby capybaras.
What Is The Size of a Capybara?
The average length of the capybara’s body is 3,2 feet long, but some of them can get to 4,4 feet. They usually weigh between 110 and 220 pounds (yeap, they are as big as they are cute!).
What Do Capybaras Eat?
The capybaras are herbivores and mostly have early-morning and late-afternoon eating habits when the weather is cooler. They feed on grass, herbs, and any type of vegetation near lakes and rivers, even underwater plants. Depending on their size, they can eat up to 11 pounds of food per day.
Here are a couple of interesting facts about the average diet of a capybara:
- In the wild, the average diet of a capybara varies depending on the season (dry season – when food is considerably less abundant and the quality is not so great as well; and wet season – when the resources are rich and the availability is higher).
- The capybara’s most common sources of food are herbaceous plants, leaves, aquatic plants (like reeds, water hyacinths), grass, and crops (fruits, grains, seeds, vegetables). Although capybaras are classified as grazers (who usually have low protein diets), they instinctively tend to eat sources with higher plant protein levels.
What Is The Lifespan of a Capybara?
The capybaras can live up to 10 years in the wild, but that lifespan can be expanded if they are properly cared for in a domestic environment (we’ll get to that on later topics in this post). When domesticated, they can reach from 15 to 20 years of age.
Where Can I Find Capybaras In Brazil?
In Brazil, capybaras are mostly found in the Midwest and Southeast of the country, especially in regions near water. Still, they are commonly seen in urban areas as well, so don’t be surprised if you bump into one while visiting São Paulo for instance!
Where Can I Find Capybaras Outside Brazil?
Capybaras are common animals in most of South America, mainly sighted in Argentina, Bolívia, Colômbia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guiana, Paraguay, Peru, and Suriname Uruguay, and Venezuela. Chile is the only South American country in which capybaras are not regulars.
What Are The Capybaras Natural Predators?
Due to their size, capybaras are common prey for jaguars, ocelots, snakes, alligators, piranhas, and wild dogs. Outside Brazil, they are also targeted by men interested in their meat and skin, which can be used to make leather. This is a common practice in Venezuela, for example.
Can I Raise a Capybara at Home?
Yes, you can raise a capybara at home, but that depends on the laws and regulations in your home country and state. In the US, for example, most states allow capybaras as pets, as long as you can sustain the living conditions in which they need to be maintained.
If you’re interested in having a capybara, the best thing to do is to get in contact with the Animal Control department in your city to find out more in regards to importing and keeping one at home. Also, keep in mind that a specialized vet is crucial in order to keep the capybara healthy, so make sure you have everything it takes to keep them well in a domesticated environment.
In terms of temperament, capybaras are usually calm and peaceful but not as tolerant to rough playing activities like dogs and cats. So if you have small children at home (especially below the age of 12), it may not be advisable to get one, as they could attack if they feel irritated or threatened.
How Can I Raise a Capybara at Home?
If you want to raise one of these cuties at home, the first thing you need to know is that capybaras need a lot of space. So to break everything down, here’s what you’ll need:
The Capybaras Pen
The ideal area should be at least 10 square feet for one capybara. This area needs to be protected by a sturdy fence, which should be 4 feet high or more (as the average size of the capybara allows them to easily escape if the fence is lower than that). Make sure the fence is double-backed and well fixed on the ground, as they could tackle it to the ground and try to escape.
Speaking of that, it is very important to get the fencing right, as capybaras are master escape artists and can squeeze through very small and tiny spaces. And trust me, if your pet capybara scape, you’ll have a very hard time catching it. They can also use their strong teeth to chew their way out, so make sure to get a fence that is both strong and firm.
The capybara’s pen must have both sunny and shaded areas, so they can sit wherever they want, depending on whether they feel hot or cold. The shade is very important, especially during the Summer, as their fur is not completely able to withstand the heat and the water helps to keep their skin hydrated during the season.
A cool thing about the capybaras is that, like dogs, they can be potty-trained if you use special mats for them to make their necessities. If you raise a capybara from a very early age, this training becomes even easier. Just change the mats whenever they’re done, and you’re good to go.
The Capybaras Swimming Pool/ Water Tank
Along with the big yard and pen, Capybaras need a swimming pool! As we said earlier in the post, these animals are semi-aquatic, and need to stay near water as it is their natural habitat. The capybara’s pool must be at least 3 feet deep and the capybara must be able to submerge completely into the water.
The water tank can (and should!) be bigger and deeper if you have to means and space to install it. The rule here is definitely “the bigger, the better”, as a larger aquatic area will allow for the capybaras to play and not feel trapped at all times.
Capybaras can withstand extreme temperature changes. In regards to cooler temperatures, they can be kept outdoors in areas with lows of 4 °C (40 °F), but a sheltered area is necessary for them to warm themselves (with bedding made of hay, straws, or mulch).
During hotter days, the capybaras can tolerate temperatures as high as 32–38 °C (90–100 °F) as long as they have access to their swimming pool and a shaded area, like an open pen or a shed for example.
Like a lot of rodents, the capybara’s teeth keep growing throughout their whole life and hence need to be worn down regularly. The most effective and budget-friendly way to do this is by providing them with hay or some wooden sticks to chew on. Birch and willow are common choices which the capybaras like a lot.
Just make sure the wood is not poisonous or hazardous to the capybaras, as there are some types of wood that can make them sick (or even killing them depending on the quantity they ingest). Just make sure they don’t use their teeth on your wooden furniture!
On that note, capybaras love biting inanimate objects so unless you don’t want an extreme makeover in your house, it’s best to keep them away from areas with a lot of objects for them to chew on. Otherwise, be ready to deal with carpet and furniture mutilation, as well as cell phone charges being destroyed and shoes disappearing all the time!
Speaking of using their teeth, if you have a garden or a lawn, you will most likely never have to worry about mowing it for the rest of your life if you decide to get a capybara. These cute animals love to chew on the lawn, so you must be careful not to use any pesticides or anything of the sort in your gardening.
If you have a flower or fruit garden, make sure to check if any of those are poisonous to capybaras as well. If they are, restrict the animal’s access to this area, like putting together a green house or obstructing the capybara’s passage with a sturdy obstacle.
Little Known Facts About The Capybaras
- The capybaras absolutely love to roll in the mud, especially during Summer. The mud helps the capybaras to keep their body temperature cool, and as they are very abundant in the South American savannahs, the capybaras use to cool off. So if you’re thinking about raising a capybara at home, know that these little rascals could eventually Spider-Pig your whole living room if you are not careful!
- The capybara has a strong correlation with a disease called Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, which could be fatal to human beings. The capybaras are not exactly responsible for transmitting the disease themselves, but they can sometimes carry a type of tick called star tick (Amblyomma cajennense). These ticks are vessels for a bacteria called Rickettsia rickettsii, which is the main cause of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. If bitten by an infected tick, a human person can develop the disease and eventually die if not treated with the correct antibiotic.
- Sadly, there are a lot of endangered Brazilian animal species, such as the Guará Wolf and the Pink Dolphin. But fortunately, the capybaras are not amongst these animals. Today, the capybaras are listed under the “Least Concern” category for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, which means there’s no urgent concern for the capybara’s general well-being in the wild.
- The capybaras are cecotrophagic mammals, which means they ingest cecotrophage, a type of….well, poop. Yeah, I know its gross, but as we said earlier in the post, the capybaras are very selective with their food sources, so when they can’t find the grass they want, they resort to eating their cecotrophage, which is rich in amino acids, proteins, and vitamins. The capybaras are fully aware of what poop to eat based on its color.
- The capybaras have a robust and strong body, but although being very agile and vigorous, they are unable to turn their heads around, mainly because of their short and bulky necks. In order to do that, the capybaras need to turn their whole bodies around, which is why they always run before actually identify if there are predators around.
- The capybaras are great swimmers and can withstand up to 5 minutes underwater without coming up for air. Their paws are flat, which facilitates their swimming and also walking around muddy terrains like swamps and quagmires. The capybara’s eyes and ears are located at the top of their heads, which also helps them to observe their surroundings even from inside the water.
- The capybaras have a very good sense of direction, and no matter how far away from home they stray, they will always make their way back to the rest of the ground. These animals have an excellent sense of smell, which they use as a type of radar in order to sniff their way back home.
- The capybaras are considered the chillest animal on the planet because they are indeed very friendly to other animals and often allow other species to play and coexist with them. It is not unusual to see them carrying smaller species or just relaxing while animals play beside them. They really are the definition of unbothered!
- The capybara’s fur sometimes isn’t full enough in order to cover their whole bodies. For that reason, they are highly susceptible to sunburns, which is why they like staying close to the water and shaded areas, as well as covering themselves in mud to protect them from the sun rays.
- The capybaras are also very popular in Japan, having been brought to the country in 1960 to be studied. Since then, they have featured in several Japanese TV commercials, becoming famous in the country. They have VIP treatments in the Japanese zoos as well, being often spoiled with hot water springs and a lush diet. In the Suzaka Zoo in Nagano, for example, they give the capybaras hot baths with chrysanthemums petals. Talk about celebrity treatment!
- The capybaras and hot water baths became such a big deal in Japan that the country once even held a “Capybara Bath Contest,” in which 4 Japanese animal parks participated. The main objective was to determine which capybara was able to stay the longest while relaxing on the hot springs. Is there such a contest for humans? I’m sure I’d make at least to the top 3 of that!
So, how did you like to know more about the Brazilian Capybara? There are several other Brazilian native animals worth learning more about, so stay tuned for future posts about all of them!
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Do Capybaras Stink?
No, the capybara does not stink. Their fur doesn’t smell because they don’t have a thick undercoat like a dog or a cat. Also, since their fur doesn’t cover their whole bodies like dogs and cats, they are also unable to maintain any orders for long.
Plus, remember that capybaras are semi-aquatic animals, and therefore, go swimming all the time which keeps them clean (assuming the pool is clean).
Are Capybaras and Guinea Pigs The Same Animal?
No, the capybara and the guinea pig are two distinct animals. They both indeed belong to the family Caviidae in the order Rodentia, meaning they’re both rodents and both cavies, but are two completely different animals.
Do Capybaras Bite?
Yes, capybaras do bite. They have big teeth, which is their main way of defending themselves, and they will not hesitate to use these if provoked. Capibara bites can be messy and can really hurt somebody depending on how deep they go in with the bite.