Online Encyclopedia

CAPYBARA

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V05, Page 297 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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CAPYBARA, or CARPINCxo (Hydrochaerus capybara), the largest living rodent mammal, characterized by its moderately long limbs, partially-webbed toes, of which there are four in front and three behind, hoof-like nails, sparse hair, short ears, cleft upper lip and the absence of a tail. The dentition is peculiar on account of the great size and complexity of the last upper molar, which is composed of about twelve plates, and exceeds in length the three teeth in front. The front surface of the incisors has a broad, shallow groove. Capybaras are aquatic rodents, frequenting the banks of lakes and rivers, and being sometimes found where the water is brackish. They generally associate in herds, and spend most of the day in covert on the banks, feeding in the evening and morning. When disturbed they make for the water, in which they swim and dive with expertness, often remaining below the surface for several minutes. Their usual food consists of water-plants and bark, but in cultivated districts they do much harm to crops. Their cry is a low, abrupt grunt. From five to eight is the usual number in a litter, of which there appears to be only one in the year; and the young are carried on their parent's back when in the water. Extinct species of capybara occur in the tertiary deposits of Argentina, some of which were considerably larger than the living form. Capybaras belong to the family Caviidae, the leading characteristics of which are given in RODENTIA. When full-grown the entire length of the animal is about 4 ft., and the girth 3 ft. Their geographical range extends from Guiana to the river Plate. Capybaras can be easily tamed; numbers are killed on land by jaguars and in the water by caimans—the alligators of South America.
End of Article: CAPYBARA
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ALFRED CAPUS (1858– )
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