The Capybara – Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris (R.O.U.S.)

OK folks. I sometimes get weird urges, and now is the time for one of them. My thoughts keep on going back to the post I re-blogged about the Capybara. I went into research mode.

First thing to do was to get hold of pictures of the giant rodents (I’m a rodent fan). That was the easy part. The net is full of pictures of this “little” creature and most of them are adorable:

The net abounds with pictures of these cute semi-aquatic mammals. Hey, we’re related! There is something irresistible about them. As you can see from these pictures, people do keep them as pets. The capybara with the guinea pig gives you an indication of just how large the capybara gets and how much it and the guinea pig look alike. No wonder I am in love.

Next post on the program was trying to get reliable information about the creatures. With the net that can always be a challenge, but let it not be said that I did not try. And let it also be said that this post is to be taken in the spirit in which it was written.

WHY WOULD ANYONE WANT A CAPYBARA?

Strange thing you should ask that. There are in fact several reasons for wanting a capybara. The pictures above clearly indicate one reason. Cuteness factors heavily into any choice we as humans make, and the capybara is adorable (in a huge sort of way).

I’ll admit it. The capybara is large for a rodent. It ends up at around a metre long and weighs anywhere from 35-65 kg. That is like a large dog, and from some of the pictures on the net, that must be what it feels like when it cuddles on your lap. Affectionate and willingness to follow you around is part of its makeup. Just like a guinea pig in fact (I say this because we have had a few guinea pigs and they are lovable pets).

Herd of capybara in wetland environment © M. Watson / www.ardea.comHerd of capybara in wetland environment © M. Watson / www.ardea.com

Our guinea pigs did not take up quite as much space as the capybara, but when you have a pet that seems to matter very little. As you can tell from this picture, the capybara is a social animal. Like the guinea pig, they like to be surrounded by others. Living in fairly large family groups, makes for survival in the wild. Although their teeth are quite impressive (I would hate to be bitten by one), the capybara are prey, not predator.

Capybara lasooed by a llanero for research © M. Watson / www.ardea.comCapybara lasooed by a llanero for research © M. Watson / www.ardea.com

Another reason is cost-efficiency. Can you believe it? You can eat it, use it for its leather and the capybara has a cheap diet – as it is way more effective in its digestion of plant material than cattle and horses. Its main diet is grass, but it will also eat grains and aquatic vegetation. (Arkive) As it is semi-aquatic, it would do well in areas that have seasonal floodings. The capybara also eats its own poo, saving you some work in cleaning up after it.

In fact, some places use the capybara instead of cattle (Wikipedia). In Llanos of Venezuela there is even commercially licensed hunting of the capybara.

Some zoos and parks have the capybara as one of their sights.

SO, WHERE IS THE CAPYBARA FROM?

File:Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris range.pngHydrochoerus hydrochaeris range

All of these questions I actually know the answer to. Surprising, I must say. Well, again like the guinea pig, the capybara is from South-America. Imagine that! The capybara tends to live close to water and in the lowlands. Venezuela, Colombia and Brazil are the countries we will find it in its natural state (Arkive).

These are also the places where it is natural to do research on them. However, the capybara are a fairly unknown species despite its size. There are places you can go, if you want to know more about the scientific side of the capybara life. I have listed some of the sites below.

WHAT ARE THE POSITIVE SIDES OF BEING A CAPYBARA PET-OWNER?

Me, my owner and some of the kidsThe world’s most famous pet-capybara has its own blog at Capybara Madness. There are tons of links to other blogs and sites about capybaras.

The best part of being a capybara-owner is that you go crazy the same way you do with other kinds of pets.

So let’s see about those positive sides. Well, the capybara does fairly well with other animals. Remember to take into account its size. Accidents do happen, and when you weigh as much as the capybara does you have to watch it with small animals (like the guinea pig).

Using the poop bowl

The capybara is affectionate and trainable (at least to the leash and poop/urine bowl/tray) if there is food involved. But it is not like a dog. Or a cat for that matter. They will greet you or even function as your alarm clock in the morning. Thankfully, they are not as loud as guinea pigs can be, but they are talkative. That is what I miss most about my guinea pigs, all of their sounds.

ARE THERE ANY DOWNSIDES TO OWNING A CAPYBARA (she asks jokingly)?

YES, plenty. The capybara is an exotic pet, and as such requires a vet with some expertise in that area. You also need a licence to obtain one, and it would be best to have a capybara from a young age – or maybe as a rescue animal. As they are semi-aquatic, the capybara will need access to a pool of some sort. And you will need space – 100 square feet per animal. Being home-raised will be important for the capybara as its body temperature is difficult to maintain when it is young.

Like guinea pigs, the capybara can be aggressive. Those of us who have owned guinea pigs know that means potential biting, except being bitten by a capybara would probably inflict damage. You will also need non-toxic grass for their feed. Like all ecological stuff, that means expensive. And, again, like the guinea pig, capybaras demand a lot of time and attention.

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RESEARCH ON THE CAPYBARA

SOURCES

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