IUCN Least Concern


  • Kingdon: Animalia
    Capybara Family

    Capybara Family from the San Diego Zoo. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists the capybara as a least concern species.

  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Rodentia
  • Family: Caviidae
  • Genus: Hydrochoerus
  • Species: Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris


  • Common Name: Capybara
  • Scientific Name: Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris



Distribution and Habitat

  • Capybaras are distributed throughout the basins of the Orinoco, Amazon, San Francisco and La Plata Rivers. Water and temperature are the main factors in its distribution.
  • Its range covers the countries of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela.
  • Capybaras live in lowland habitats near water sources. Its habitat includes forests, wetlands, mangrove swamps and riverbanks.
Capybara Distribution Map

Capybara Distribution Map. Source: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species


 Physical Features

  • The capybara is the largest living rodent.
  • Females are slightly larger than males.
  • It has a large and heavy body covered with coarse red-brown, light brown to light yellow-grey hair. Hair length ranges from 1.18 to 4.72 in or 30 to 120 mm.
  • Limbs are short and digits have partial webbing. Forefeet has four digits and hindfeet three.
  • Capybaras have broad head and short and rounded ears.
  • These rodents weigh from 77 to 145.5 lb or 35 to 66 kg and are about 4 ft or 1.2 m long.



  • Capybaras live in herds of an average of 7 individuals during rainy season and 16 during the dry season. The number in a herd is affected by the condition of habitat and not by season.
  • During drought groups capybara herds, made up of hundreds of animals, congregate around water sources.
  • Herds are formed by a dominant male, females with offspring and few subordinate males.
  • Capybaras live in home ranges averaging 10 hectares but spend most of the time in a small area of less than 1 ha.
  • They mark their home range with scents from their nasal and anal glands.
  • During the morning they rest by the water under shade. During the hottest part of the day they roll about or lie relaxed in mud holes or water.
  • They are slow and selective grazers and spend several hours in this activity.
  • Capybaras are semi-aquatic and are good swimmers.


  • Capybaras are herbivores.
  • They are grazers and feed mainly on grasses and aquatic plants. They also eat seeds, grains, nuts, fruits, leaves, stems, and bark.


  • Male and female capybaras reach reproductive maturity at 18 months.
  • They bread throughout the year but it peaks at the beginning of the rainy season. They are polygynous.
  • Gestation lasts up to 120 days.
  • Litter size is 1 to 7 with an average of 3.5.
  • The young are weaned at 3 months and stay with their mother until they are about 1 year old.

Life Expectancy

  • Average lifespan in the wild is 6 years but they can live up to 10.
  • In captivity they can live up to 12 years.


  • Capybaras, especially the young, are at risk of predation by green anacondas (Eunectes murinus), vultures, feral dogs, jaguars (Panthera onca) and caimans (Caiman crocodilus).
  • Humans hunt adult capybaras for its meat and hides.


  • Its main threat is the loss of habitat due to water contamination from to mining and oil exploration activities.

Conservation Status

  • The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists the capybara as a least concern species due to its wide distribution and large population unlikely to decline.
  • They occur in many protected areas however some local populations are in decline due to over-hunting.

Did you know?

Capybaras are closely related to guinea pigs and rock cavies.




References and further research

The American Society of Mammalogist – Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

University of Michigan Museum of Zoology – Hydrochoerus Hydrochaeris

Eartham College Biology Department – Capybara

ITIS Report

Denver Zoo – Capybara Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris