Meet the largest rodent in the world

Picture of a capybara.

The Spanish-speaking folk call the rodent carpincho or chig├╝iro.

These are only 2 of the 190 names the rodent has been given.

It better known, though, as the “largest rodent in the world.” or commonly as "Capybara."

As you see, it is roughly the size of a sheep.

Put it on the scales, and the needle can swing to a hundred pounds [45 kg].

Some larger ones can register 130 pounds [60 kg] or more. Yet, one sleek female Capybara in Brazil set the record—a hefty 200 pounds [90 kg].

Master of the grasses

A capybara eating grass.

All that weight is not the result of gorging junk waste food, since they are wholly vegetarian, eating mainly grass.

Sometimes they even graze alongside domestic cattle.

Respectfully, Amerindians of old called them “master of the grasses.”

That’s certainly a more reasonable description of them.

They also eat water plants, and while you are sleeping, cannot resist sinking their chisel-shaped incisors into a juicy watermelon, a sweet stalk of sugarcane, or a young rice plant.

In fact, whenever you see them, they are nibbling—not because they are gluttons but because they are rodents.

Their cheek teeth never stop growing, so the only way to wear them down is by chewing and gnawing until they die.

They pick only “plants of highest protein content and are more efficient at converting grass to protein than even sheep or rabbits.”

A pig with swim fins?

A Capybara about to swim.

Admittedly it looks like a pig, let’s say, characteristically.

Protruding eyes; small, round ears; contractible nostrils—all placed high up on it's large head, giving it's face an expression of perpetual amazement.

That is why some say the large rodent looks like a “jumbo guinea pig with just a suggestion of the hippopotamus in it.

Moreover, 200 years ago, Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus mistakenly classified the rodent as a pig.

However, the Capybara is no relative of the porkers.


Have you ever seen a pig with swimming fins?

These webbed feet are handy because the rodent love water.

In fact, it is the pig-shaped body and love for water that has earned the Capybara the nickname water pig.

Why the Capybara loves living near the water?

Capybaras living near water.

Areas near ponds, lakes, rivers, and swamps—preferably surrounded by woods with thick undergrowth—suit the rodent as home.

Not only does it love water, but needs it for survival. Why?

It does not make burrows to hide in like other rodents.

Rather, when alarmed it heads for water, dives in, and swims away with ease.

Though it body lacks the streamlined features of other aquatic creatures, it is a superb swimmer.

The reason?

Because of it's layers of fat, volume for volume, it is only slightly heavier than water.

When hard-pressed, it's webbed feet can propel the rodent quickly forward—away from enemies.

Therefore it can swim a good distance underwater and remain submerged for several minutes.

Cautiously it may come up, staying low in the water, exposing only it's nostrils, eyes, and ears—just as the hippopotamus does.

Enemies, such as feral dogs, jaguars, caimans, anacondas, and humans, have a hard time spotting it's nostrils among the water plants.

With a well-developed sense of smell, it's nose can easily discovers predators.

Since constant exposure to the hot sun quickly cracks and ulcerates it's skin, being in the water also prevents sunburn.

As it's reddish-brown to grayish hair is sparsely distributed, it's skin shows through.

So to control it's body temperature, it simply remains submerged in water or wallow in mud, covering it's body with a layer of clay.

Capybara babies

A Capybara with her babies.

The capybara mother has to be on land to give birth.

After a pregnancy of about four months, from two to eight babies are born, each weighing over two pounds [1 kg].

Their “lighter brown, sleeker coats,” makes them look “more smartly dressed” than their parents.

A female capybara begins breeding when 15 months old.

She may live for ten years and may produce a minimum of 36 babies in her lifetime.

Within hours the babies are walking closely behind mother.

Swimming, however, is harder because baby at first is reluctant to go into the water.

After a forced launching, the frantically paddling infant will try to catch up with mother, or another female, and climb on her back.

Mother, then, willingly serves as a life buoy.

The larger the infant becomes, though, the harder it is for it to keep its balance.

Soon it rolls off mother’s back, swimming on its own.

Adult females also cooperate in nursing.

Mothers feed not only their own young but also the thirsty offspring of other females. Why?

A nursing coalition, increases [the youngsters] chances for survival.

Meek by nature, they are easy-to-tame as pets.

However, they are mostly kept for their meat, which some say is tasty.

Some countries even have ranches where thousands of Capybaras are raised for food.

We hope now you will like the Capybara not merely for the way it tastes, but for what it is, a marvel of nature.