Featured Creature Friday: The Cuddly Capybara

I must say, I have been quite scandalized lately to discover exactly how many people don’t know what a capybara is. In my childhood, capybaras featured as regularly in animal lore as elephants and tigers and other exotic beasts, and as an adult I’ve found it hard to fathom that anybody else didn’t have the same experience. (I mean, obviously we don’t all have the same childhood, but how did these people survive all this time without knowing about capybaras?!) My love for capybaras came about mostly because as a child I was an avid consumer of Bill Peet‘s brilliantly illustrated children’s books, and one of my favorites was his story — based on his own life with his family’s pet capybara — called Capyboppy. (Also, I feel I should point out that as an adult I’m an avid consumer of Bill Peet’s children’s books. The man was a genius. Cowardly Clyde? Come on. Amazing.)

So, because I feel like you might be missing out on the best of all possible things by somehow failing to know what a capybara is, I want to introduce you to one of my favorite mammals. It’s much cuter than your average R.O.U.S., but is in fact the largest rodent in the world, standing 50-64cm tall at the withers. They weigh about a hundred pounds — that’s almost as much as my gargantuan dog. Good lord. They have slightly webbed feet and enjoy swimming, eating grass and water plants, and living in groups. They’re quite vocal and when they’re alarmed or excited they bark sort of like dogs.

Look at that dapper fellow. All he needs now is a monocle. And maybe a top hat. Photo by VigilancePrime at Wikipedia.

Capybaras are native to South America, and are a pretty important part of the food web there, providing meals for humans, anacondas, caimans, jaguars, ocelots, eagles, and probably just about anything else that likes to eat meat because seriously, these things are freaking huge. You might see them outside of South America though because, like Bill Pete, there are some people who really like to keep them as pets. Here’s one with a pretty sweet pool set-up, and here’s the same little fella going for a walk. (It’s possible I’m a little addicted to that youtube channel.) Keeping them as pets isn’t legal in some places though, and they’re pretty high-maintenance animals since they’re semi-aquatic and are wild animals and all, so don’t just run out and buy one. But if you’d like to live vicariously through somebody who does have a capybara, you should visit Caplin Rous’ blog.

Capybara reproduction is pretty standard for mammals, but there are a few interesting highlights. When the female is ready to mate, she alerts the males by whistling through her nose. (If only we could teach the females to wolf whistle, my life would be complete.) They actually mate only in the water, which I can only assume is because they’ve watched too many hot-tub-centric pornos, and then when the babies come there can be up to four in a litter. The wee ones nurse but also start nibbling at solid food pretty much right away, and they’re looked after by the whole group; capybaras believe it takes a village to raise a child.

Speaking of pups, baby capybaras are insanely cute. They’re like tiny little versions of the adults.

A baby capybara at the Paignton Zoo in the UK

Look at that baby capy. LOOK AT IT. Then watch this video of a baby at the San Diego Zoo and try to tell me your heart didn’t just grow three sizes. Just TRY to tell me that.

Now that you’ve nearly overdosed on the cuteness of capybaras, I hope that you’ll also take a look at Capyboppy next time you’re in the library or bookstore, and introduce yourself to the works of Bill Peet if you’re not already familiar. Because reading is fundamental, and even capybaras know that.

Capital old fellow! Capital!

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17 thoughts on “Featured Creature Friday: The Cuddly Capybara

  1. Love it! I’m enjoying this run of cute animals on your blog. Although it makes me mildly apprehensive to think of what awful abomination you might shock us with next…

    I saw my first capybara (two of them, actually) recently at the Biodome in Montréal. Unfortunately they didn’t bark, as they must be used to people looking at them by now. They looked so gentle and cuddly.

    • I don’t think I’ve even seen them in zoos, but I do stalk them via the Internet. :D It seems to me that they don’t bark very often (just like my dog!), but I linked to a video up there where you can hear what it sounds like. They really do sound quite canine when they do that.

  2. I love and fully support your conclusion about why they mate in water. Also? That last picture is WIN. All win!

    How on earth did I not know about these fabulous creatures?

    • I know, he totally looks perfect in a monocle and top hat, right? I think I need to start a new comic strip or something with the monocled capybara. :D

      I do not know how you did not know! Hopefully you knew about Bill Pete, though… I gave you Cowardly Clyde, didn’t I? I’m hoping to fuel David’s horse addiction to help usher you into a life of poverty when you eventually have to get him a pony. :D

  3. LOL Top drawer post, top drawer I say!

    Love the monocle and top hat! Now he just needs a bag of money and he could be the Monopoly guy!

  4. So love this post!! I am familiar with capybarras (to some exent), but your post left me “awww – ing” and wishing there were an easy way to smuggle one home….. not practical as I’m sure the 5 dogs and 7 cats in residence might object (as might my husband and daughter, come to think of it), but it’s a nice idea :-).
    Thanks for sharing!!

    • They’re certainly adorable, I can see why people are tempted. And having recently watched a show on Animal Planet about a guy who was keeping a pet tiger in his apartment in Harlem, I can in all honesty say that a capybara is not the craziest exotic pet one could acquire. ;D

  5. I saw that baby at the San Diego zoo!!!! I told my boyfriend to grab a shovel. He might as well have buried me right there because there is no way I will ever die happier. Bonus- THE MOM WAS LICKING HIS HEAD! There is nothing cuter than a miniature copy of an adult. Once I saw a wee aquarium full of baby clownfish. End of story. I assume I blacked out from the miniature cuteness.

  6. Oh my cuteness & a new author to go find, I somehow never heard of him! I have met a Capybara when I went to Australia and I actually got to pet her. Thank you for a cuddly creature. :)

  7. Love these guys! We have a family friend that has a zoo animal rescue and a little herd (flock? group?) of them and offered us a couple to keep as pets. I wish I could have gotten a pair! They’re super neat :)

  8. I am thrilled that I found this! My boyfriend and I had been at the Biodome in Montreal and saw a couple of capybara, which led to a discussion about how they always look bored and perhaps a bit snooty. This led to me saying, “They look as though they should be sporting monocles!” This, of course led to a Google search, which led me to your site. I actually squealed out loud when I saw the picture with one wearing not only a monocle, but an honest-to-god top hat! Thank you, you’ve made my night!

  9. Pingback: I can stop anytime I want. It’s just that I don’t want to. Ever. Please, don’t make me! « Red Roan Chronicles

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