Capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris). Photo by Charlesjsharp.
Capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris). Photo by Charlesjsharp.

Capybaras are giant rodents that resemble the largest of guinea pigs — but actually spend much of their lives in water. 

Deep in the forests, savannas, and rivers of South America, many fascinating species of animals roam. Colorful toucans swoop through the trees; massive anacondas slink through the wetlands; pink river dolphins play in the murk; and hungry jaguars prowl through the foliage. But capybaras might be among the most interesting of them all.

Capybaras are found in every South American country except Chile. They are the largest rodents in the world, growing to nearly five feet in length and standing two feet tall at the shoulders. These animals typically weigh between 70 to 150 pounds — as big as the largest of dogs!

Capybaras are closely related to guinea pigs and rock cavies, and live in groups averaging between 10-20 individuals, but can contain up to as many as 100 at a time.

Capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris). Photo by Charlesjsharp.
Capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris). Photo by Charlesjsharp.

In the wild, capybaras reside near bodies of water and are semi-aquatic in nature. They are herbivorous and primarily graze upon grass and aquatic plants as well as fruit and tree bark. Their front teeth are constantly growing, which helps them cope with the wear and tear of eating plant matter. This is a common trait found among rodents.

Unfortunately, being the world’s biggest rodent doesn’t make capybaras immune to predation. They have many enemies and are the favorite food of the majority of South America’s apex predators including jaguars, pumas, ocelots, eagles, caimans, and anacondas all of which ravenously dine upon the large rodent. Even humans desire them for their fur and meat.

Watch the video below to learn more about these fascinating creatures!