Also known as Carpincho or Water Hog, Capybara is the largest living rodent, a semi aquatic mammal of the Central and South America. Actually, Capybaras can be found throughout almost all countries of South America except Chile. However, they normally live in the Savannas and dense forests, near water bodies. They are excellent swimmers and can hold their breath underwater for up to five minutes at a time.
To elude their predators, like Jaguars, Pumas, Eagles and Anacondas, they commonly enter water, dive and swim. Even, they can sleep in water, keeping only their noses out of the water.
The Capybaras are short-haired brownish rodents, with a heavy barrel shaped body, blunt snouts, small ears, short legs and almost no tail. Their forelegs are slightly shorter than their hind legs and they have three toes on their rear feet and four toes on their front feet. Though they have reddish-brown fur on the upper part of the body, they have sweat glands on the surface of the hairy portions of their skin, which is an unusual trait among rodents.
The Capybaras are a highly social species, can be found in groups as large as 100 individuals, but they usually live in groups of 10 to 20 individuals. While the South American capybaras are 4 feet (1.24 m) long and weigh around 66 kg, the Panamanian capybaras are smaller and weigh only about 27 kg. In Venezuela they are ranched for meat.
Capybaras are herbivorous animals and apart from grazing mainly on grasses and aquatic plants, they also eat fruits and tree barks. During the wet season they eat mainly grass. But, due to non availability of sufficient grass, they have to switch to more abundant reeds during the dry season.
They also eat their own feces, as a source of bacterial gut flora, which helps to digest the cellulose in the grass. After grazing, they like to relax wallowing in mud. They rest till around midnight and then continue to graze before dawn.
Capybaras mate only in water and if a female does not want to mate with a particular male, she either submerges or leaves the water.
The female Capybaras bear a single litter of three to eight young each year and their fetal period vary from about 110 to 130 days. Breeding peaks between April and May in Venezuela and between October and November in some specific areas of Brazil.