Have you ever wished your hamster could grow to be as big as a pig or a dog? Well, your wish can come true if you get a capybara, the largest rodent on Earth. They are about two feet tall and four feet long and weigh around 100 pounds on average. We also know that there were capybaras that weighed eight times more in the prehistoric period. Those were literary the cutest giants ever.
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They live in South America
Capybaras love water, that’s why they live in places near rivers and lakes. Their natural habitats are in South America, mostly grasslands and forests close to water. They like water so much because they are semi-aquatic, like beavers and otters. Since they are active at sunset and early morning they usually rest in water during the day, especially when it’s really hot.
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Their teeth always grow
Like we said before, capybaras are rodents. These animals are known for their ever-growing front teeth, called incisors. These teeth are very sharp and because they never stop growing rodents must chew on things so they don’t grow too long. Rodents are the most numerous type of mammals with almost 2000 known species, all of them much smaller than capybara.
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They are made for water
Capybaras are great swimmers, their feet are webbed which means their toes are connected with skin, much alike ducks feet. This feature helps them walk on the soft and soggy ground, not just with their swimming. Even their scientific name (Hydrochaerus hydrochaeris) gives a hint of just how good capybaras are in the water because it means “water pig”. They have their ears, eyes and noses high up so they can breathe and see while they are swimming since they can hold their breath underwater for no more than five minutes. They also hide from predators by going into the water.
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Capybaras go “mudding”
Grown capybaras have a very rough hair that is spread pretty thinly over their skin, which means that a big part of their skin is bare and exposed to sunburn. That is another reason to go into the water or rest in the shade. They also like to wallow in the mud, hence the nickname – water pig. They do this to keep themselves cool and protect their fragile skin.
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They purr and bark
They communicate in many different ways. They whistle, grunt and purr and baby capybaras and young ones too especially use purring sound to keep in touch with the group. If there is some kind of danger they alert the group by barking. When others hear this bark they will be prepared and if the danger is very close the caller will keep on barking until others go into the water for protection.
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They eat their own poop
Capybaras eat aquatic plants and different types of grass. They also eat melons, squashes and other fruit that they can find. They can eat around seven pounds of grass per day, but since it is difficult to digest grass for mammals they have the cecum – one big chamber for fermentation in their intestines much like the appendix in humans. They also eat their own droppings to help the digest the grass. Yes, there is a scientific term for this – coprophagy.
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Capybaras live in small groups
They live in family groups with ten to twenty members. These small groups have one dominant male and they do not accept outsiders since they are very territorial. The alpha male stays in charge by chasing other males who show some desire to become dominant. This sometimes ends in fighting, but that doesn’t happen that often. Different groups sometimes gather near the water during the dry season.
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They take care of each other
Female capybaras release the scent when they want to mate so that males know when she is ready. They always mate in the water and after that the females carry the babies in them for five months. They usually give birth to around four babies which are born on land. The babies weigh around three pounds and can join their group after three to four days when they begin to walk and follow their mother. They stay with their mothers for a year or so and during that time all the young ones keep together in groups. Female capybaras are good mothers ready to help each other since they sometimes nurse others babies if needed.
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They are hunted a lot
Capybaras have a lot of predators, like anacondas or jaguars or caimans. Also, very young and small capybaras might get eaten by foxes or feral dogs. The biggest threat to capybaras are humans. People hunt capybaras for their meat and skin that is processed into leather. They are sometimes eaten during Lent, besides the fish that is the only meat allowed during the Lent in some Catholic countries. They can live up to 10 years in the wild, but some capybaras in captivity have lived more than that.
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Capybaras are very friendly…
There are a lot of images of capybaras chilling with other animals. They are very territorial when it comes to other groups of capybaras or some lonesome outsiders, but when other animals are in question they are not very choosy, they can be friends with almost everyone.
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And very photogenic
They seem like they are always ready to be photographed. And they always strike a perfect pose.
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