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Capybara Location: Where Do Capybaras Live?

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If you're looking for animals that are both cute and quirky, capybaras are definitely worth a look. The rodent is the largest of all extant members of the cavy family, which also includes guinea pigs and porcupines. Capybaras are native to South America, where they love to swim, dive and play. These animals are highly social and can often be seen sunbathing and swimming in rivers and ponds. Thanks to Chispi in Disney's 2021 film Encanto, we know there are capybaras in Colombia—but where else can you find these adorable creatures? Let's take a closer look at where capybaras live, what habitats they prefer, and where they've been!

Where do capybaras live?

South America

The world's largest living rodent - capybara - capybara - capybara
The capybara species in South America include the common capybara and the small capybara.

© Horus2017/Shutterstock.com

There are two types of capybaras living in South America: the common capybara and the small capybara. The smaller capybaras are smaller and live mainly in Panama. The common capybara, on the other hand, lives throughout South America in places like Venezuela, Colombia, Guyana, Suriname, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Bolivia. Chile is one of the only places that doesn't have capybaras, as these huge rodents can't get over the Andes to get there!


Interestingly, although the capybara is native to South America, there have been some reports of capybaras in other countries far from their native range. Although there are no officially confirmed numbers yet, there have been many sightings of capybaras in the United States! Many capybaras can be seen all over Florida (to see locations, check this map).

The capybara found in Florida is likely a released pet or one that escaped captivity. So far, they have not posed much threat to the natural environment or humans. However, they occasionally raid farms or gardens for pumpkins, melons, and grains.


It is worth noting that in Japan the capybara has become a beloved animal all over the world. In the 1960s, several capybaras were brought to Japanese zoos. Their sociable, urbane nature makes them endearing. Zoos and animal parks in Japan continue to offer hot springs for resident capybaras, or their own custom-made hot springs. There is also a popular cartoon capybara in Japan called Kapibarasan.

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What is the native habitat of capybaras?

capybara water
Capybaras are both semi-aquatic and terrestrial animals.

© mcpslima/Shutterstock.com

Capybaras are land mammals, but they are also semi-aquatic. They inhabit areas with dense vegetation and close to water sources, such as swamps, swamps, lakes, ponds, and rivers. Their favorite habitat is lowlands near water. However, they are also very fond of flooded grasslands and savannahs when the seasons change. Their typical range is usually 25 acres, where they roam and graze.

If anything, some capybaras even colonize farmland and human settlements near these water sources. Many cattle are known to thrive on pasture, although this can cause problems for resident cattle. Capybaras in Florida typically live in the state's mangrove swamps, wetlands and forested riverbanks.

Capybara Habitats and Biomes

The capybara's natural habitat consists of three distinct biomes: rainforest, savannah/grassland, and wetland.

Capybaras in the Rainforest: Tropical rainforests are rainy for most of the year, which means these animals have plenty of fresh water to drink from. The dense vegetation in the rainforest also provides ample opportunity for capybaras to hide from predators and escape the scorching sun.

Capybaras in savannas/grasslands: During the dry season (up to eight months) in savannas and grasslands, capybaras will find refuge near water sources such as ponds and lakes. The long grass provides cover from predators, but also makes it difficult for capybaras to spot potential threats.

Capybaras in Wetlands: Wetlands are soil-saturated habitats that support aquatic plants. These areas include swamps, bogs, bogs, and marshes. During the wet season, wetlands are filled with precipitation or groundwater. This makes it difficult for some animals to obtain food and shelter, but provides an ideal environment for capybaras. The presence of water also helps these animals regulate their body temperature, as they are susceptible to heat stress.

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capybara and water

Capybara family swimming in a lake in Brazil
Capybara mothers often swim with their babies in the water.

©iStock.com/Yuina Takase

These unique animals love water and spend almost all their days in it or in the dense vegetation nearby. In fact, the capybara's scientific name ( Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris ) comes from the Greek words for "water" and "pig" or "pig." These large semi-aquatic rodents are excellent swimmers and can even hold their breath underwater for up to five minutes! While they are surprisingly agile on land, they are equally agile in water. Some capybaras even sleep underwater with their noses sticking out of the water.

While these giant rodents may look like shaggy pigs or oversized guinea pigs, their toes are actually partially webbed, which allows them to paddle and swim with ease. Their fur is more like rough, brittle hair, which helps capybaras dry out quickly when returning to land after a swim.

Water as a natural escape route

Living in and near water is convenient for capybaras, who often fall prey to larger predators. When swimming, capybaras usually stick their heads out of the water to breathe while submerging the rest of their bodies. Their eyes, nostrils and ears are located on top of their heads so they can use them while keeping the rest of their body underwater.

This allows them to breathe and check their surroundings while still submerged, helping them avoid predators. Unfortunately for capybaras, these animals are easy prey for larger predators such as crocodiles and jaguars. However, due to their semi-aquatic skills, they can often escape predators by slipping into the water to hide.

Additionally, capybaras are herbivores and their diet consists mainly of aquatic plants, grasses, fruits and vegetables. They are generally very hardy animals and can tolerate extreme temperatures as long as there is enough water. However, given the choice, capybaras prefer warmer climates and plenty of water. If the temperature is too high, they can easily wallow in water or mud all day, and then eat grass in the morning and evening.

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capybara group

Capybaras live in groups.

© Millie Bond – Copyright AZ Animals

These playful animals are very social animals, usually living in groups of 10-20. However, sometimes a pod of capybaras may live with 40 or more at a time! Such groups of capybaras can be quite intimidating, as capybaras can grow up to four or five feet long and weigh up to 150 pounds. Capybaras are very vocal animals, and they communicate with each other through a variety of sounds and body language.

Capybaras are hunted for their skin and meat in many parts of South America. Although the IUCN lists them as a species of "Least Concern" because of their stable overall populations, many capybara populations have been driven to extinction by overhunting.

As you can see, capybaras have a variety of habitat requirements, but they all center on being close to a source of fresh water. Some capybaras may live alone, but in general, they prefer to live in groups. If you're lucky enough to spot one of these amazing creatures in the wild, be sure to give them plenty of space. They are wild animals after all, but feel free to take as many pictures as you like.


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about the author

For 10 years I have been a professional writer with a special focus on nature, wildlife, ethnozoology and the human-animal relationship. My areas of interest include human-animal studies, ecocriticism, wildlife conservation, pets, and animal behavior. I graduated from Brigham Young University with a master's degree in comparative studies, focusing on the relationship between humans and the natural world. In my spare time, I enjoy exploring the outdoors, watching movies, reading, creating art, and taking care of my pets. Nothing makes me happier than spending a day in the company of animals.

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