From the Keepers

“Antonio and Mirabel both have big personalities and even bigger appetites! They are very curious about staff and exploring new things, and we are really enjoying getting to know them!”

Kristen, Zoological Manager

Capybara Characteristics

  • Are most active on land, but are skilled and graceful swimmers
  • Have partially-webbed feet that allow them to dive deep and swim underwater for long distances
  • Often hide in floating vegetation with only their eyes, ears, and nostrils sticking out of the water – much like a hippo
  • Like other rodents, their front teeth continuously grow to compensate for being worn down from their diet of grasses and water plants
  • Prefer to poop in the water, and rarely “go” on land
  • Eat their poop as the bacteria it contains helps in digestion of their fibrous diet of grasses, reeds, and other water plants

Not “Rodents of Unusual Size”

Unlike the fictional “Rodents of Unusual Size” from The Princess Bride movie and book, capybaras are relatively docile, but do sometimes fight amongst themselves. But they can weigh more than 170 pounds. They hail from Central and South America (not the “Fire Swamp”) where they prefer to live near standing water like riversides, ponds, and marshes.

Capybaras have been called “swamp hogs” and “water pigs” as they were originally thought to be related to pigs. But as rodents, they are more closely related to… guinea pigs.

Just as with other rodents like porcupines and squirrels, capybaras’ long front teeth continue to grow throughout their lifetime. However, like a camel, they chew from side-to-side and like a cow, they regurgitate their food to re-chew it.

“Rodent of Unusual Size” from The Princess Bride.

Enjoy a look back at the Zoo’s previous group of capybaras, who arrived as youngsters in 2010.

Conservation Status

While the IUCN has not officially identified the status of the capybara population, experts generally agree that in recent years it has become increasingly difficult to find this shy and sometimes nocturnal animal in the wild. Deforestation and habitat destruction are factors, and until recently hunting and poaching as a food source. New captive farming programs have helped relieve poaching.

What You Can Do:

Clean water is very important to the survival of all species, including capybaras. You can help prevent pollution in lakes, rivers, and oceans by making sure to properly dispose of chemicals and pet waste.