The capybara is a semi-aquatic rodent of South and Central America. It is the
only species in its genus, which belongs to the family Hydrochoeridae, order
Due to their highly aquatic nature, the capybara was once declared by the Vatican to be a fish, which allowed
them to be eaten during Lent. They are also hunted and eaten by large predators such as the cougar and
The capybara is the world's largest of 1,729 living species of rodents and looks much like an overgrown guinea
pig. Extinct forms of this animal were even larger, but the present-day capybara can reach an adult weight of more than 50 kg (110 lbs), an overall length of 1.25 m
(4 feet) and a shoulder height of 50 cm (21 inches).
Capybaras live in large groups along the banks of lakes and rivers in South and Central America. As a herbivore, it grazes on the lush grasses and the aquatic
vegetation. It comes out on to dry land to rest and bask in the sun but at the first hint of danger entire troops will dash into the water.
Capybaras found in the colder regions of South America have a long shaggy coat, but the typical specimen has short, pale and rather coarse fur. The face is very
deep, the ears and tail are small and the feet are slightly webbed. There is a large bump in the middle of the top of the nose, which is thought to be a scent gland of
some kind possibly used for marking territory.
Capybaras have adapted quite well to life in captivity and have become remarkably friendly. They are extremely vocal for rodents. They communicate through a
series of strange clicks, squeaks and grunts. The gestation period is approximately 4 months and maximum life expectancy about 10 years. The female bears a single litter of three to eight young each year;
gestation takes about 100 to 110 days.