Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris (Linnaeus, 1766)

Don E. Wilson, Thomas E. Lacher, Jr & Russell A. Mittermeier, 2016, Caviidae, Handbook of the Mammals of the World – Volume 6 Lagomorphs and Rodents I, Barcelona: Lynx Edicions, pp. 406-438 : 436-437

publication ID

https://doi.org/ 10.5281/zenodo.6585510



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scientific name

Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris


15. View Plate 25: Caviidae

Greater Capybara

Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris View in CoL

French: Grand Capybara / German: \Wasserschwein / Spanish: Capibara

Other common names: Capybara, Carpincho

Taxonomy. Sus hydrochaeris Linnaeus, 1766 View in CoL ,

“Surinamo.” Restricted by A. Feijo and A. Langguth in 2013 to “Rio Sao Francisco, 2 km sudoeste da cidade de Penedo, estado de Sergipe, Brasil” by selection of neotype .

Based on J. L. Dunnum’s 2015 treatment, no subspecies are recognized. Monotypic.

Distribution. Broad distribution E of the Andes, in Colombia, Venezuela, the Guyanas, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, and NW & E Argentina. View Figure

Descriptive notes. Head-body 1070-1340 mm, tail 10-20 mm, ear 60-70 mm, hindfoot 220-250 mm; weight 35-65 kg. The Greater Capybara is the world’s largest rodent and is unmistakable in the field. It is brown to reddish brown dorsally and generally lighter on sides. Pelage is coarse. Ears and eyes are small and set higher on skull as an adaptation to aquatic habits. Feet are webbed. An adult male has a large oval gland on rostrum, which is quite visible.

Habitat. Aquatic habitats including marshes, ponds, lagoons, streams, and riversides. Greater Capybaras are generally found in tropical and subtropical habitats, forested areas, and grasslands like those of the Llanos of Venezuela and the Brazilian Pantanal.

Food and Feeding. Greater Capybaras forage on grasses, sedges, and aquatic vegetation. They occasionally browse on shrubs.

Breeding. Greater Capybaras breed year-round in moist tropical habitats, with generally one or occasionally two litters per year. There is often a peak birth month: e.g. February in the Brazilian Pantanal. Litter size averages 3-5 young (range 1-7). Gestation lasts 120-150 days. Females have six pairs of ventral mammae.

Activity patterns. Greater Capybaras can be active at any time of the day, but they are most active after dawn and in the early evening. In regions where there is strong hunting pressure, they are mostly nocturnal.

Movements, Home range and Social organization. Greater Capybaras live in large groups of extended family members. Group sizes are 2-30 individuals; each group generally has one dominant male that breeds. Mating system is a form of resource defense polygyny, where males defend access to foraging resources associated with bodies of water, which are also critical for predator escape. Males emit alarm barks, and groups flee to the water where they can swim under the surface. Home rangesize is variable and depends on habitat quality, varying from 10 ha in resource-rich areas to more than 200 ha in resource-poor habitats. In the Brazilian Pantanal, groups of Greater Capybaras as large as 37 individuals were observed, with mean group sizes of 3-6-5-8 individuals. Density can be nearly 15 ind/ha.

Status and Conservation. Classified as Least Concern on The IUCN Red List. The Greater Capybara has an extremely wide distribution, is present in many protected areas, and occurs at high densities in many regions. Hunting for meat and leather is a primary threat, but there are a number of captive populations that have reduced demand.

Bibliography. Alho & Rondon (1987), Asheret al. (2008), Dunnum (2015), Eisenberg & Redford (1999), Emmons (1997a), Feijo & Langguth (2013), Ferraz et al. (2007), Macdonald (1981, 2001), de Oliveira & Bonvicino (2006), Woods & Kilpatrick (2005).













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