Capybara Capybara

Scientific Classification

Common Name
Genus Species
Hydrochaeris hydrochaeris

Fast Facts

Coat is long, coarse, and somewhat sparse. Coloration on dorsal surface is reddish brown to gray, while the coloration on the ventral surface is a lighter yellow-brown. Adult males exhibit a large, bare hump atop their snout which contains rather enormous sebaceous glands. Limbs are short, while the head is large and broad. The muzzle is quite pronounced. Their digits are have short, strong claws and are partially webbed. Tail is vestigial and is therefore non-apparent.
Head and body length: 100 to 130 cm (3.3 to 4.3 ft.)
Shoulder height: up to 50 cm (1.6 ft.)
27 to 79 kg (59.5 to 174.2 lbs.)
Mainly grasses, but also including aquatic vegetation, grains, melons, and squashes
Gestation lasts up to 120 days after which an average of 3.5 young are born (range, 1 to 7), the peak birth period is during February in the Brazilian Pantanal.
Sexual Maturity
15 months; in Venezuela and the Brazilian Pantanal, the species breeds throughout the year, usually with a single breeding cycle.
Life Span
8 to 12 years
This species has a broad distribution that spans east of the Andes in Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, the Guyanas, Brazil, eastern Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and northwestern and eastern Argentina.
The species occurs only in habitat close to water including marshes, estuaries, and along rivers and streams.
Global: Population appears to be stable and is not severely fragmented.  It is locally common and widespread, but uncommon or rare in populated areas of the Amazon. Populations in the rainforest are small and narrowly restricted to open watersides.
Regional: Density in the Pantanal is roughly 15 animals per hectare.
IUCN: Least concern
CITES: Not listed
USFWS: Not listed

Fun Facts

  1. The capybara is the world's largest living rodent.
  2. Capybaras are proficient swimmers, swimming with only their nostrils, eyes, and ears above the surface. They are also known to swim underwater, sometimes for considerable distances.
  3. Capybaras live in large groups of extended family members, with group size varying from 2 to 30 individuals with one dominant breeding male. The mating system is one of resource defense polygyny, where males defend access to foraging resources associated with bodies of water.

Ecology and Conservation

While often hunted for its meat and hide, the capybara remains widespread and common. Commercial ranches raising capybara have seen modest interest. Capybara ranches have the ecological advantage of maintaining areas while engaging in commercial pursuits.

The species occurs in many protected areas throughout its range.

A population may be established in the Santa Fe River drainage in north-central Florida. It is suspected that the Florida population is the result of escapees from a private residence. One specimen has also been documented in Mississippi


Nowak, Ronald M. Walker's Mammals of the World - Volume I (Sixth Edition).Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991

Reid, F. 2016. Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T10300A22190005. Downloaded on 08 October 2018.

U.S. Department of the Interior - U.S. Geological Survey – Capybara Species Profile. Downloaded on 08 October 2018.