Getting Wild with the Capybara

PHOTO: Marie Hale
PHOTO: Marie Hale

Capybaras are the world’s largest rodent, followed by the beaver and the porcupine, and are close relatives of chinchillas and guinea pigs. They are found throughout South America, mostly in savannas and dense forests in the Amazon. Capybaras are “semi-aquatic” and have webbed feet, love to swim and always live near water sources like lakes, rivers, swamps, ponds and marshes.


  • Their name comes from the Tupi word ka’apiûara. The Tupi are a native people from coastal Brazil. They chose this name because it means “grass-eater.” It makes sense, because capybaras are herbivores.
  • Highly social animals, capybaras usually live in groups of 10-20, but are sometimes found in groups of over 100.
  • Capybaras can stay under water for up to five minutes.
  • The illustrated children’s book The Wump World by Bill Peet tells the story of a small planet entirely populated by imaginary creatures, called “wumps,” that are based on the capybara. In the book, the wumps’ beautiful planet is invaded by human-like creatures called “Pollutions” that move from planet to planet, building cities and polluting along the way. If you want to know the ending, check out the book from your local library.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *