Daily Trivia: Capybaras, Earth’s Largest Rodent


The largest rodent on Earth, the capybara, is native to South America. The large, barrel-shaped rodents can grow to stand nearly a foot-and-a-half at the shoulder, and can weigh as much as 180 pounds!

Interestingly, the critters are rather friendly and are often seen socializing with members of other species in the wild and in captivity.

Cavy Family

Capybaras are, naturally, the largest members of the cavy family of rodents. This is a matter of course, as they’re also the largest rodents on Earth. They are noticeably closely related to guinea pigs, their much smaller cavy cousins.

Much like their larger cousins, guinea pigs have barrel-shaped bodies, friendly dispositions, and thick fur. Unlike guinea pigs, however, capybaras don’t make the best pets.

For one thing, capybaras are pretty big, rivaling some of the larger breeds of dogs. For another, they require substantial quantities of aquatic vegetation and hay for food, from six to eight pounds of food daily. Moreover, they require large bodies of water to swim and play in.

Semi-Aquatic Rodents

Unique among cavies, and rodents in general, capybaras are semi-aquatic. Their paws are partially webbed, making them natural swimmers. They have unique, coarse fur that helps them shake dry quickly. In the wild, they’re typically observed around large lakes that have lots of fast-moving freshwater tributaries.

Their heads are also uniquely shaped for rodents: they have their eyes, nostrils, and ears all very high on their heads. This allows them to keep much of their body submerged beneath the water, like a hippo, while they keep an eye out for predators. They’re naturally hunted by ocelots, pumas and jaguars in their native South American environments.

Giant, Friendly Animals

Capybaras have received a great deal of attention recently on the internet thanks to their uniquely calm dispositions. They are famously easygoing, getting along with nearly all non-predator animals.

As large herbivores, they have little need for aggression. Much like their smaller guinea pig cousins, they are widely regarded as being very cute and easy to pat and spend time with.

Images of capybaras relaxing with guinea pigs, monkeys, cats, goats, chickens, and numerous domesticated species of animals are common online. Due to their uniquely calm disposition, they are often seen being used as a chair or balancing post by animals of nearly any species. It is not uncommon to see birds, goats, and other wildlife balancing on capybaras in the wild, for reasons that are likely related to social symbiosis.