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Capybaras (Hydrochoerus spp.) Fact Sheet: Diet & Feeding

Anatomy & Physiology

Digestive system similar to rabbit's

  • Simple stomach
  • Large intestinal pouch (caecum) with microorganisms for fermenting cellulose
  • Excrete two kinds of feces
    • Olive colored oval balls
    • Also colorless, protein rich "paste" which is re-ingested for maximum digestion of nutrients (= coprophagy)
  • Regurgitate and re-chew food while resting

Front incisors crop native grasses too short for cattle

Feeding

Selective grazers; eat approximately 3 kg/day fresh forage, mainly grasses

  • Tend to be more selective when more plant species available
  • 80% of diet is only 5 species of grasses (Poaceae)
  • Most common plant species in areas typically the ones eaten most often, especially in winter when fewer species available
  • Various estimates for amount of aquatic plants in diet from .6 % to 87 %
    • As wet season advances, more reeds and water hyacinths consumed

Capybaras raid cultivated fields for grains, melons, squashes, bananas, sweet potatoes, manioc leaves and corn

Capybara in Water

two capybaras in the water

Image credit: Adrian Pingstone [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Page Citations

Barreto and Herrera (1998)
Borges & Colares
Nowak (1999)
Quintana et al (1998)

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