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Capybaras (Hydrochoerus spp.) Fact Sheet: Distribution & Habitat


Prehistoric distribution

  • North America, Central America, West Indies, South America
  • Historically, before livestock introduced: riparian regions throughout South and Central America

Current distribution

H. hydrochaeris

  • Venezuela to NE Argentina
  • Large, continuous distribution in South America
  • Portions of Columbia, the Guianas, Suriname
  • Paraguay and Uruguay
  • Northeastern Argentina
  • Amazonian Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia
  • Concentrations in:
    • Llanos of Venezuela
    • Pantanal wetlands of western Brazil
    • Taim lowlands of southern Brazil

H. isthmius

  • Eastern Panama
  • Northern coastal Colombia and Venezuela
  • Much smaller geographic distribution than H. hydrochaeris


Lowlands, from open plains to tropical rain forests; always near water

  • Swampy, marshy, grassy areas bordering rivers, ponds, streams, lakes
  • Prefer nutrient-rich muddy rivers with aquatic grasses
  • Need extensive meadows at low water times

Habitat specialists

  • Use open water for drinking, wallowing, predator protection
  • Use dry land for foraging, resting
  • Grassy patches and brushy scrub both essential in extremes of dry and wet seasons

Ecology largely unknown until 1966

  • Venezuelan government began studies in Llanos region

Distribution Map

Capybara distribution map


Capybara distribution.

Adapted from according to IUCN fact sheet. Click here or on map for detailed distribution (IUCN).

Page Citations

Herrera & Macdonald (1989)
Mones & Ojasti (1986)
Verdade &. Ferraz (2006)

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