The guinea pig used to be my favorite rodent. Then I began to wonder, “What is bigger? What is better? What is cuter?” My answer was the capybara. These massive rodents are certainly some of God's most amazing creations. Their physical features and behaviors make capybaras uniquely suited for acquiring food and avoiding threats in their tropical jungle environment.
You’ve heard of the monstrous capybara maybe, but let me describe it for you. At one hundred fifty pounds, the average capybara is about three times the size of the world’s next biggest rodent, the beaver. Like beavers, capybaras spend most of their time in the water. Well suited for life in the water, these rodents have large webbed paws, and coarse hair which dries quickly. Also their nose, eyes and ears are close to the tops of their square shaped heads which lets them stay almost totally submerged. They have big lungs which allow them to stay underwater for up to five minutes. These features give them a distinct look.
Capybaras live in the dense jungles of South and Central America’s rainforests, and have some specialized behaviors. Living in family herds which can have as few
as ten and as many as four hundred individuals. Capybaras are herbivores and are somewhat territorial, using special scent glands to mark their herds browsing range. Like many other rodents they are mainly nocturnal, which means they are most active at night. They often live ten years in the wild (up to twelve in captivity). Capybara females are ready to mate at seven to twelve months and usually have three to six pups per litter. Males mature a little later at fifteen to twenty four months. The behavior of capybaras is certainly intriguing.
Though large, capybaras face many threats. Jaguars, ocelots, crocodiles, caimans and anacondas prey on these large rodents. Other dangers to capybaras are, surprisingly, each other, as males will sometimes skirmish for dominance over their herd and these fights can even be fatal due to blood loss. Their tactics for staying out of trouble are mainly hiding in the water or in thick brush and running away. Capybaras are also hunted by humans for food and hides. So this goes to show what a dangerous life these rodents live.
Capbaras, the world’s largest rodent, is truly a spectacular creature. Do you understand what these R.O.U.S.* look like? Certainly you should strive to discover the secrets of the capybara’s behavior. Finally, learn about the threats of these huge guinea pigs. So next time you go exploring in the Amazon rainforest or just at a large zoo, keep an eye out for the fabulous, furry, friendly capybara!
*Rodents Of Unusual Size