Dobby the Capybara Grows Up

(c) Rebecca Rosman

At 2 months old, already bigger than a nutria.

I watched Dobby grow from bunny size to mastiff over ten years. Those of you who visited here (90 visitors in 2018 alone!) understand how enormous these animals are. None of his visitors will ever again mistake a capybara for a nutria. For the rest of you, I’ll try to show some sense of scale.

At 6 months, he can still walk under the table, and his back is well below chair height. The size of a medium dog.

He still fit neatly in a bathtub, but then, this is a large jacuzzi tub. Plus, he was still manageable: I could towel dry him as he left the tub, and he never pooped in the water.

He’s 10 months old here. About 60 pounds (22kgs) plus whatever water sticks to him.

He always loved attention, but eventually he saw The Bartender as a rival. At 11 months they were still best buddies.

The Bartender scratches Dobby pouffy.

There are many reasons why Dobby was banished from the living room. There’s nothing in this photo that he wouldn’t eat or mark or both. I still can’t believe how fast he grew. Fifty thousand photos and not enough of him as a baby.

Yummy baskets, plants, wood floors, and Persian carpets.

I had moved him outdoors to sleep during his first summer. We even slept out there with him the first couple of nights, but he was thrilled with the change and loved his new outside bedroom right away. By now, he was spending most of his day outdoors, exploring, grazing, and snoozing.

Note the heated kennel pad. He has a heat lamp here (note the cord protector), but I was afraid he would rub his morrillo on it and knock it down. I bought him a wall-mounted microthermic heater.

Dobby wasn’t even fully grown when he started blogging. He’s about 80 pounds (36kgs) in the photo below.

Dobby and his laptop.

Dobby spent many happy hours swimming in his pools. This pool is about 42″ tall and he is standing on the bottom. I’m a short 5′-0″ tall (152cm) but he was easily my height when he was full grown. Consider that when they fight, capybaras put their front paws on their opponent’s shoulders and start biting. They have leather, though, not tender skin like ours, so it’s not a game to encourage.

He used to push that green ball around with his nose and bark at it. He used the noodles to float around, like a kid, but then he would shred it and leave dozens of foam shards everywhere.

No, I never trained him to use his outdoor toilet, and he didn’t like the vintage yellow tub, either. Those of you who have guinea pigs will quickly understand why a capybara owner might want an outdoor toilet. Herbivores are prolific. It isn’t quite like cleaning up after an elephant . . . but close to that.

He’s 1-1/2 years old here, about 90 pounds. Now, picture him, this size, in YOUR bathroom! And he’s not yet fully grown.

His head is big enough to wear an adult-sized Mickey Mouse hat, but only for a nanosecond. He loved his jackets, but would not wear a hat.

Mickey Mouse on steroids.

Dobby didn’t like snow, and young capybaras seem especially prone to frostbite. He never spent much time in the snow, but would walk through it to get to the barn to visit his hens.

I hope everyone has seen the video of Dobby clicking at the snow.

The only time he preferred the kitchen to outdoors was when the temperatures dropped in winter. I rigged up the kitchen door so that he could open it himself to come indoors. After swimming he would come in so that I could dry him off with his frog towel.

He was so well behaved that a flimsy ex-pen was all I needed to keep him confined to the kitchen. Can you see part of it in the foreground?

You can see part of his ex-pen to the left, too. That’s where I went in and out. One day, he winked at me, grabbed that ex-pen with his gigantic teeth, opened it up, and pranced into the kitchen. He could open it, but he didn’t. Still . . .

Dobby can be seen, out on the deck, considering his options.

Solid vintage schoolhouse doors are sturdier than ex-pens and make an attractive barrier for a mischievous two year old capybara. While I was at it, I had my wood floors covered by linoleum, for good luck. Dobby could still open the kitchen door with a tiny pull-knob on the outside, and a blocked strike plate on the jamb kept it from shutting. Bells chimed to let me know that he was coming or going.

That’s an extra-large dog harness.

We were spending several hours a day grazing in the front yard, and putting the harness on and off was good daily practice. That’s not something you want to teach your two year old capybara on an emergency run to the vet. The harness is fairly useless because capybaras have big necks and no shoulders. It is possible to develop a technique where the capybara is in front, possibly following his favorite person, while the lesser favorite person stands behind and holds the leash, in tension. Just make sure he doesn’t turn around, because that harness will slide right off and over his head, and you better have a Plan B.

Dr. Sharman Hoppes comes to visit!

By the time Dobby was 2-1/2 years old, I knew he had to be neutered. He wasn’t terribly aggressive, mostly amorous. He was now about 110 pounds (50kgs). See the bucket that Dr. Hoppes is holding? He really wanted to “jump up” on her, so she is learning my bucket technique. It can be used as a shield if he tries to “jump up” but he was now so obsessed with marking everything with his morrillo that he could easily be distracted by holding the bucket up to his schnozz. Bucket handles give it a nice bouncy action when he rubs his nose under it.

Where did the swimming pool water go?

He started eating his swimming pools when he was three years old. The cheap Intex pool above was the third, due to manufacturing errors, or maybe the freeze-thaw of winter, but now Pool #3 had bite holes from the INSIDE. Capybaras have razor sharp teeth, and biting holes in swimming pols like this proves it.

Swimming Pool #4 lasted about a day.

Like a fool, I thought a “metal-sided” pool sounded great. Look at that flimsy vinyl liner, though. This was the most difficult pool to assemble, and awkward to dispose of. It was a painful lesson, but it makes a funny story in Dobby’s book. I gave up and got him a galvanized stock tank. This is what breeders use, and most capybaras love them. Dobby hated #5 and it eventually became the duck pond. Then it rusted through, so it was never going to be a permanent solution.

Not even corn-on-the-cob could entice him into #5. Can you see his goldfish?

The harness/leash helps a lot when you take your capybara to the vet. So does having a wrangler. He’s about 115 pounds (52kgs) but we could walk him into the clinic and he was very well-behaved. Messy (that’s corn all over the floor) but vets are okay with that. They just don’t like biters.

There will be vet visits. That’s one thing you can count on.

Dobby reached his fourth birthday and we bought him the toughest, most indestructible above-ground pool on the market. It cost a fortune, and he started right out with test bites on the outside, especially at the top edge. I’m smarter than I look, so I immediately threw on protection at the top (split ABS drainline) and a skirt of wire fencing at the outside perimeter. Live and learn.

Capybaras need swimming pools.

Dobby was five years old when Melanie Typaldos came to visit. He was nearly full grown at 128 pounds (58kgs). By now, Dobby was getting visitors all summer long, but he wasn’t used to having them stay overnight. Melanie took advantage of how Dobby loved to be brushed and survived the stay.

Long legs like a dancer.

Melanie and I have seen a lot of capybaras, but she concurred with my opinion that Dobby is very tall. He had a slender build with long legs, unlike the shorter stout versions most people have. The wild ones are very short and shaped like a football or maybe an overstuffed twice-baked potato.

His Royal Highness Prince Dobalob

At six years old, he weighed in at 136 pounds (62kgs) and barely fit onto the scale. Capybaras are naturally docile, for a wild animal, that is. Wild animals survive by having split-second reaction times and they won’t be looking at you for advice. If a full-grown capybara bolts, let’s say because a gate opens, and you are standing on the path, you are going to get knocked flat. Ask me how I know.

While you are training your capybara how to wear a harness, you may want to add “step onto the scale” to his repertoire.

Dobby responded well to target training and learned many tricks. I wasn’t trying to turn him into a circus performer, I was reinforcing our ability to communicate. Dobby was proud when he understood my commands, and was eager to demonstrate that understanding. We worked on his tricks every day.

He easily out-weighed me at seven years old.

He was gradually losing weight, and for various reasons, I took him to a new veterinarian for a checkup. When we left the office he had two fractured upper incisors. Those are the big buck teeth we usually associate with rodents and rabbits. Like us, they have molars for serious chewing, grinding, and mashing. The incisors are the scissors that cut the grass when they graze. Our front teeth aren’t nearly sharp enough to bite the tough fibrous grass capybaras like to eat. Rodent teeth grow continually, and Dobby’s grew back in, but it took about six weeks.

For six weeks, I cut his grass and served it in buckets.

Dobby was tough, and had many swimming days ahead of him. He continued to lose weight, though. I kept cutting buckets of bamboo and grass long after his teeth grew in. He was so tough he decided to run for president!

He’s actually swimming here, not just standing around.

Eight year old Dobby returned to his original veterinarian when he began to have trouble walking. He was still losing weight, too. We put him on a calcium supplement and installed a UV light. We gave him vitamins, CBD oil, and pain meds. He spent less time dancing, more time napping.

No, Dobby! Don’t do that indoors!

This is the year when Dobby wrote his book. His friend Sonya sketched him and painted him and they published it near the end of 2017. I want to thank everyone for encouraging us in this endeavor.

Dobby made a few edits during the final review.

So, really, how big are capybaras? It depends upon how much time you spend getting to know them. Their personality is the biggest part of them, that I do know. They are definitely big enough to knock you over, but they will also kidnap your heart.

A kiss for the Farm Manager




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