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Capybara Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Wendy McDougal

Wendy has taught high school Biology and has a master's degree in education.

A capybara is a type of rodent closely related to the guinea pig. This lesson will talk about the capybara, its physical features, where these rodents are found, what they eat and what family life is like for the capybara.

What Is a Capybara?

You may be familiar with a small, fluffy pet called a guinea pig. You may have even held this cuddly creature. What if someone told you that the guinea pig has a close relative that is the size of a big dog? It's true! And this animal is called a capybara.

A pair of capybaras

Capybaras are the largest rodents in the world. A rodent is a mammal known for its large front teeth that never stop growing (which means they must chew and gnaw constantly to keep their teeth at a reasonable length). Examples of other rodents include rats, mice and squirrels.

Join us to learn more as we explore the world of capybaras.

Features of the Capybara

A capybara looks somewhat like a hairy pig. It is covered in sparse, brownish hair and has no tail. An adult capybara is about 2 feet tall and weighs around 100 pounds. That's about the size of a labrador retriever! The feet of the capybara are slightly webbed, and this comes in handy because it is semi-aquatic, which means it spends a lot of time in water.

Where Are Capybaras Found?

Capybaras live in Central and South America, and they can also be found in many zoos around the world. Since they're semi-aquatic, they love to hang out in water and are great swimmers. Capybaras especially like marshy ponds and swamps.

Capybaras enjoying marshy waters
Capybaras in water

Since the hair covering a capybara is sparse, its skin can become easily sunburned when exposed. But the capybara knows what to do. It heads to the muddy bank and rolls around! The mud protects its skin. This is the capybara's way of putting on sunscreen.

Capybaras stick around water for other reasons, as well--a capybara can hide underwater from predators. The jaguar is the main natural predator of this animal. If a jaguar comes near, the capybara heads underwater, where it can hold its breath for up to 5 minutes! The capybara's eyes and nostrils are near the top of its head, so that it can come up for a peek and breath without being easily noticed.

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