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Capybaras (Hydrochoerus spp.) Fact Sheet: Summary

Capybaras (Hydrochoerus spp.) Fact Sheet


Capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris)
Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.
Taxonomy Physical Characteristics

Describer (Date): Linnaeus (1766)

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Rodentia

Family: Caviidae

Genus: Hydrochoerus

Species: Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris (greater capybara)
Species: Hydrochoerus isthmius (lesser capybara)

For Greater Capybara

Body Weight: 35-65 kg (77-143 lbs)

Head-Body Length: 1070-1340 mm (3.5-4.4 ft)

Pelage: Long, coarse, sparse, reddish-brown

Distribution & Status Behavior & Ecology

Range: Panama to NE Argentina (northern South America east of Andes) for H. hydrochaeris.

Habitat: Lowland grassy areas bordering rivers, ponds, lakes; need open water and dry land

IUCN Status
Greater capybara: Least Concern
Lesser capybara: Data deficient

CITES Status
Not listed

Locomotion: One basic gait: a pace with 3 feet on the ground; good swimmers

Activity Cycle: Grazing late afternoon, evening, night; rest during morning; spend hot hours of the day in water

Social Groups: Highly social; up to 100 individuals at water in dry season

Diet: Selective grazers; prefer several species of native grasses

Predators: Jaguars, puma, foxes, bush dogs, feral dogs, ocelots, caiman (alligator), birds of prey, and humans

Reproduction & Development Species Highlights

Sexual Maturity:
Males:15 to 24 months
Females:7 to 12 months

Gestation: 150 days

Litter Size: 4 to 5 pups

Birth weight: 1,500 grams (3.3 lbs)

Age at Weaning: About 16 weeks

Typical Life Expectancy:
Wild populations: typically 7-10 years
Managed care: median life expectancy for males of 7.1 years; females, 8.6 years.

Feature Facts:

  • Largest living rodent
  • Excellent swimmer with slightly webbed feet; can stay underwater up to 5 minutes
  • Eat 3 kg/day of fresh forage
  • Currently found in parts of South and Central America
  • Status not currently threatened, but encroachment of human development and perceived competition with agriculture needs controls and monitoring
  • A San Diego Zoo capybara named Caba formed an unusual friendship with a feral cat in 1944; the two often rested together & groomed each other.

About This Fact Sheet

© 2008-2019 San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. Updated 2019. Size information updated 2017. Population and Conservation updated Nov 2018.

How to cite: Capybara (Hydrochoerus spp.) Fact Sheet. c2008-2019. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd]. capybaras.
(Note: replace YYYY Mmm dd with date accessed, e.g., 2015 Sep 10)

Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance makes every attempt to provide accurate information, some of the facts provided may become outdated or replaced by new research findings. Questions and comments may be addressed to

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