Where Capybaras Live Free

I never tire of looking at capybaras in the wild. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Even if you are in South America they are somewhat elusive. So I guess I am talking about looking at photos of capybaras in the wild. Take a good look, because there is going to be a quiz. Not really, but next time you see capybaras in a zoo, recall the habitat you see here. Most zoos give them little concrete pools in a concrete pen. Sometimes they generously give them sand. Where are the pond plants? The mud? How about the grass? They eat grass, not monkey chow biscuits. Okay, let’s look at some random photos.

Those plants are going to be lunch.

The female above might be in a field but she is equally likely to be sitting in a puddle or the shallows of a stream.

Eleven maybe? This is a very typical size family herd. I only see one big male, but it’s hard to tell.

If you remember that adult males have a prominent morrillo (greasy gland on the bridge of their nose) sometimes you can identify the family members.

Clearly a female. Sometimes it’s easy.

Wild born babies are much bigger than the newborns we see here in zoos and breeding facilities. Little guys don’t have a chance against Harpy Eagles, Anacondas, Jaguars, and Caiman.

“I ate all of the grass.”

You can tell by the very shaggy dense fur that this is an older capybara. Capybaras have a very dense (Jaguar-proof) hide with sparse, coarse hairs. It dries quickly and works nicely to provide shade without overheating this tropical animal. It’s as if they only have the guard hairs without the undercoat. This is an extremely fluffy capybara and I wonder if this is a regional adaptation. A male this age would have such a prominent morrillo that we would easily see it, even in profile. So female, probably.

A very attractive female

What a profile! This capybara is mature, probably younger than the fuzzy one above. She’s starting to get a ruff and a shaggy chest and rump. Most of the animals you see are about this age. In the wild only half make it to their first birthday. Four is the top age. An occasional five year old is found and researchers get very excited to discover a six year old.


The capybara above has grass, shade, and water for a quick escape. Considering the manicured landscape and distant homes, this one is in territory currently claimed by humans. I am seeing more frequent reports of capybaras “invading” towns. Capybaras in these conditions tend to be more nocturnal, resting during the day, grazing at night. Capybaras way out in the Pantanal wetlands graze at night, too, though.

Waiting for the next ferry

I dare you to count the capybaras above. I get a different number every time. There are at least twelve sets of ears. There is a mature male on the right with a very obvious glossy morrillo, even in profile.

Heading toward the nearest watering hole

The capybara above demonstrates how they closely resemble guinea pigs. Look at those short legs! The potato shaped body. You have to look at the ferry dock photo to (almost) see the front paws with four toes, the big back feet with three. It explains why they’re so bad at math. Imagine doing everything in base fourteen!

Daytime grazing

Look at the Fearless Four above, grazing next to the road. The color variation is probably due to wet mud, dry mud, and no mud. This is a good photo to compare to zoo habitats. Trees, shrubs, grass, and four content capybaras. I have seen few zoo enclosures that looked anything like this, even in Brazil!

I’m sure you noticed they are jaguar footprints and not capybara footprints. Scroll back up for the explanation if you can’t tell why.

“You can cross now, there are no cars!”

Capybaras are very intelligent and deliberate in their actions. Of course, there are traffic accidents involving capybaras, and I see them in the news all the time. They occur mostly on remote stretches of highways where infrequent cars travel at high speeds. A disproportionate number of motorcycle accidents happen out there. Traffic accidents involving deer are common here, but they don’t make national news the way capybara accidents are covered in Brazil.

It happens all the time, I guess.

How about just one more?

It’s hard to imagine this happening in Seattle. Maybe I should retire- really retire- some place where this is a possibility.

Dobby leaves his apartment. He’s going to meet some friends for lunch.

It’s long walk down to the end of the block where the crosswalk is.

They meet at a new fast food restaurant one of them saw last week.

I can imagine the guy in that apartment hearing a bicycle fall over. He looks out the window, rolls his eyes. Turns to his wife, “They’re back.” Maybe this is why the zoo habitats are mostly concrete and bare dirt. The Japanese zoos at least provide quality concrete and dirt, plus proper hot baths all winter and gourmet snacks.

Triplets, but not identical.

This last photo looks photo-shopped. You know these guys are up to their armpits in water because those are water plants, Pickerelweed probably. I have a big one in a whiskey barrel because Dobby never ate it. Let me know when you find a zoo with a habitat like this!


Oh, yeah. Sorry about the missing photo credits. I would happily credit the photographers but I totally failed to grab that information when I stole the photos off the internet. My bad. Most came from South American online news sources like Globo1. If you see your photo here, please contact me and I’ll properly credit you.

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