Capybara Facts: Insights into the World’s Largest Rodent

Capybaras are the world's largest rodents, native to South America, and adapted for a semi-aquatic lifestyle.

Capybara Basics

Capybaras, scientifically known as Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris, are intriguing creatures notable not only for their status as the largest rodent in the world but also for their distinct adaptations to a semi-aquatic lifestyle, such as webbed feet.

Physical Characteristics

The capybara is a hefty animal with a barrel-shaped body, short head, and surface of the skin that can range from brown or yellowish-brown to reddish in color.

Adults typically measure between 106 to 134 centimeters in length and weigh approximately 35 to 66 kilograms, although some individuals can reach up to 91 kilograms.

Their webbed feet aid in swimming, and while they have a vestigial tail, it is barely noticeable.

Additional information on capybara size and appearance can be found on Fact Animal.

Scientific Classification

Belonging to the genus Hydrochoerus, capybaras are a mammal species within the rodent family.

The scientific name of this species is Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris.

More details on the species’ classification can be found on National Geographic.

Habitat and Distribution

Capybaras are native to South America and have a wide range within the continent.

Their habitat includes forests near bodies of water—such as lakes, rivers, marshes, savannas, swamps, and wetlands.

This preference for wetlands is due to their semi-aquatic nature, making the Amazon Basin one of their optimal living environments.

They are highly social animals, forming groups that can adapt in size depending on environmental conditions, with a distribution that spans across nearly all South American nations, except for Chile.

To explore their habitat and social behavior, check out the information at

Capybara Lifestyle

A group of capybaras lounging by a tranquil river, surrounded by lush vegetation and basking in the warm sunlight

Capybaras are highly social herbivores with unique feeding habits and reproductive behaviors.

They face various threats in the wild but are currently not considered threatened.

Social Behavior

Capybaras are renowned for their social structure, often forming groups referred to as herds, which can number from 10 to 30 family units.

These groups provide numerous benefits, ranging from predator detection to social learning.

A single dominant male typically leads each group, playing a central role in the herd’s behavior and decision-making processes.

Diet and Feeding

These animals have a diet consisting largely of grasses and aquatic plants, and they will also eat fruit and bark for additional nutrients.

Capybaras are grazing creatures, and their eating practices have adapted to their environment with behaviors such as coprophagy—eating their own feces—which allows them to digest cellulose and absorb more protein from their tough plant diet.


During the breeding season, female capybaras will typically give birth to a litter of around four to five young after a gestation period of roughly 150 days.

Offspring are well-developed at birth, being able to see and move around within a few hours, and they join the group almost immediately, enhancing their chances of survival.

Threats and Conservation

Although capybaras face predation from animals like jaguars, anacondas, caimans, eagles, pumas, and ocelots, the biggest threat comes from humans.

They are often hunted for their meat and hide, and although their conservation status is of least concern on the IUCN Red List, habitat destruction and illegal hunting pose constant risks to their well-being, making conservation efforts important for their continued survival.