You read that title correctly, Defenders – this animal of the week is a rodent bigger than any you’ve ever seen! While many shriek at the size of New York City rats, and others believe the beaver to be the world’s largest rodent, that title actually belongs to none other than the Capybara. What exactly is a Capybara you ask? Well they are the largest living rodents on our planet, native to South America, and their closest rodent relatives are the guinea pig and the rock cavy. Capybaras are highly social rodents, and some groups have been found to have as many as 100 individuals together!
Are Capybaras rodents?
Some might assume these animals are too big to be in the same family as mice and rats, but it’s true defenders, the Capybara is a rodent. This means their teeth never stop growing like other rodents, so Capybaras need to eat often and chomp down on things like nuts, berries, and seeds to help keep their teeth trimmed down. Unlike most rodents though, the Capybara does not have a prominent tail, and their feet are slightly webbed as they are semi-aquatic.
Where are Capybaras from?
Capybaras are native to South America, and can be found across a fairly wide range. They have been spotted in almost every South American country aside from Chile, and being semi aquatic they tend to live in areas near bodies of water. The habitat of a Capybara can range from forests near lakes and rivers, to swamps and marshes, as well as tropical rainforest areas and savannahs. It isn’t unheard of that Capybaras would escape from captivity and are then found in similar habitats around the world – a full population has not been confirmed, however they have been spotted in watery marsh areas in Florida.
How fast is a Capybara?
Being the largest rodent on Earth, the Capybara is actually a fairly fast animal! Capybaras are semi aquatic mammals, so they spend a lot of time in the water and are great swimmers. However when they are on land they are still very agile. Capybaras can reach speeds passing 20 miles per hour, so they could even outrun some small horses!
Can I have a Capybara as a pet?
While it can definitely be difficult and not recommended for beginners, Capybaras have often been found to be exotic pets for bigger rodent lovers. Some states require a license for these animals, however in Pennsylvania and Texas they are completely legal to own as a pet. For a Capybara to be truly happy though, they will definitely need access to an area of water to swim around, and just like guinea pigs, these guys are extremely social animals. It can be a burden to have more than one rodent that weighs over 100 pounds, but it is recommended not to get a single Capybara, but instead a pair, so they have a friend.
What are the predators of a Capybara?
As these huge rodents often live in forests near water, their list of predators include many forest dwelling creatures native to South America. Felines like jaguars, ocelots, and pumas are stealthy and fast enough to chase down a Capybara on land, and they are also preyed upon by snakes such as anacondas, and raptors such as harpy eagles. Their semi-aquatic lifestyle helps with predators though, as Capybaras will often hide in murky waters to avoid those bigger animals.
Are Capybaras good to eat?
You most likely will not find Capybara on any menu in the US. However, in their native South America especially in countries like Venezuela, the Capybara is often considered a food delicacy! Most places will raise Capybaras for their fur hides, as well as the thick fat they have that is used in some medicines. In Venezuela though, Capybaras are often a festive meat on Easter, the same way turkeys are viewed on Thanksgiving.
The Capybara truly is one of the more unique rodents on our planet, and we hope you enjoyed them as our Animal of the Week! You can learn even more about their rodent cousins in the rodent center of the Critter Squad Kids’ Zone, and make sure to keep an eye on our Youtube Channel for more awesome info and videos!