Physical characteristics

Capybaras resemble agoutis but are much larger. The head is large and broad, the ears are small and rounded, the eyes located dorsally, the neck is robust and short, not differentiating in diameter from the head. The body is covered with coarse hair that is reddish brown to grayish, and lighter yellow-brown in the underparts. The capybara is the largest living rodent, with a pig-sized pregnant female reaching 176.4 lb (80 kg) in weight; head and body length is 39.4-51.2 in (100-130 cm); shoulder height is up to 19.7 in (50 cm); and average weight is 139 lb (63 kg).

The muzzle is truncate with an enlarged upper lip and large nostrils. The forefeet have each four toes and the hind feet three, all armed with short but strong claws. Feet are partially webbed to allow swimming. The coarse pelage is so sparse that it allows one to see the animal's skin. Females have four pairs of ventral mammae.

Adult males can be identified by their black sebaceous gland, a scent gland, located on the top of the muzzle, which is used to mark with essence plants and other substrates in their territory. The tail is very short and vestigial.

As an herbivorous rodent, the teeth are distinctive; the incisor teeth are white and shallowly grooved. The third molar

Capybara (Hydrochaeris hydrochaeris) adult and young. (Illustration by Barbara Duperron.)

is longer than the other three molar teeth. The cheek teeth are modified and ever-growing.

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