Life with a 100 lb rodent that sounds like a Geiger counter when it's happy

Jeff Vandermeer sez,
"When people hear him they are always amazed. His voice is often mistaken for a birdsong. When he's nervous he sounds like the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. When he's happy he sounds like a Geiger counter."

An indepth interview with a capybara owner living in Texas. These giant rodents are among the most fantastical of beasts: "I take Caplin out in public a lot just because I like to have him with me. It is fun to watch people's reactions. Most people have no idea what he is and some take that as a personal affront, angry that such an animal could even exist. But most people are excited and enthusiastic about him, often referring to him as a giant hamster. That usually means they like him. Those who refer to him as a giant rat are more likely to be afraid. He is confused with a variety of animals such as tapirs, wombats and peccaries. One thing that amazes me is that very small children in strollers who can hardly speak a dozen words will point at him and say, "Mouse!" They are almost better at making that connection than adults are."

And: "Since he weighs 100 lbs, I can only have him in my lap for a few minutes before it starts cutting off circulation in my legs."

The Fantastical Capybara: An Interview with Melanie Typaldos About Her Caplin Rous (Thanks, Jeff!)


  1. Buttercup: Westley, what about the R.O.U.S.’s?
    Westley: Rodents Of Unusual Size? I don’t think they exist.

  2. I hope there are other people here young enough to remember the episode of The Wild Thornberries where it was revealed mid-meal that they were eating capybara burgers. “It’s a large, amphibious rat!”

    In completely unrelated news, I am moving to Texas in a couple days, and I have suddenly changed my mind about not wanting pets.

  3. Add a big, bushy tail and Caplin could go trick-or-treating as the world’s largest squirrel.

  4. How does one acquire a capybara as a pet, anyway? Not exactly the type of critter you can get at your local Petco…

  5. The giant rat identification by some may come from it commonly be used in sideshow & carnival displays as a “giant rat” or “giant sewer rat” – capybaras have been used for such one-offs and blow-offs for decades if not more than a century now.

    Video (not sideshow but very cute) with some of their vocalizations:

  6. Only the Brits (past a certain age) will appreciate this – but my first introduction to the Capybara was thanks to Johnny Morris’ Animal Magic – a fantastic children’s programme where Morris does all the animal voices. The Capybara was very proud of being the biggest rodent in the world – genius!

  7. According to Wikipedia they are of the least concern of going extinct.

    I’d want to hug him, but I’d be afraid he’d gnaw my face off.

  8. Sorry to be a mood fucker here, but a capybara can be very dangerous since it carries a kind of tick that transmits a very serious disease called (In America at least) Rocky Mountain spotted fever. There used to be a lot of them here in the neighborhood (im from Brazil, by the way), but the city council took them all away due to this disease. They are lovely, though.

  9. Capybara!

    I like saying that.

    He looks sorta like Dramatic Hamster. Can he act?

  10. Capybara, Capybara, men have named you
    You’re so like the lady with the mystic smile
    Is it only cause you’re lonely they have blamed you?
    For that Capybara strangeness in your smile?

  11. I like that he takes the critter out so that he can watch people’s reaction. On a non-capybara note, but about people’s reactions — I will sometimes ride my Harley while wearing stilettos (yeah, I know it’s not safe). A big, burley, bearded, tattooed man on a Harley, in high heels, gets exactly those same reactions. Some folks get quite mad that their list of valid stuff has just been messed with, while the majority of those who even notice find it to be the coolest thing they’ve seen all day. People, go figure.

  12. It would be interesting and useful to train one to be happy around sources of nuclear radiation.

  13. Rather interestingly, the Capybara is in the same boat as the Beaver in that it is considered fish by the Catholic Church.

    Actually if they were in a boat and not both perfectly happy in the water then they’d not be considered fish, so a bad choice of words there.

    But I digress. The church were asked by Catholics in the New world to rule upon whether Capybara could be eaten during Lent.

    It is still known as Easter Fish in south America.

  14. I watched a lot of the videos. Mostly they eat, sleep, swim, and try to run away from humans. Adorable but I think people are personifying them a little too much. Their behavior seems pretty much in line with other rodents’, they’re just bigger.

  15. I just saw these dudes on Ratzilla last night. They’re getting all the hype these days.

    @The Lizardman I’ve also paid 50¢ to see one at the county fair, where it was billed as a giant rat

  16. I was thinking they were on the Daily Show, as well. Sanford was going to Argentina to copulate with one.

    just tried to Google the Capybara and Argentina and this post came up.

  17. My kids have loved my copy of Capyboppy, a book written and illustrated by Bill Peet. Bill’s son bought a Capybara and they lived with it for quite a bit. Highly recommended!

  18. some take that as a personal affront, angry that such an animal could even exist.

    Jeez. They should save their anger for rape, torture and genocide. A giant rodent (even if you consider it a “rat”) is positively cute compared to those things.

  19. You know the capybara is still considered a fish by the roman catholic church. You can eat it on fridays during lent. Tastes pretty good too. Likened to pork.

    I used to love seeing these things down in brazil.

    Cool chill little animals. Love the water.

  20. If you want to be overwhelmed w/ cute, check out squirrel monkeys riding capybaras like ponies:

  21. I stayed in a jungle lodge in Peru a few years ago and they had a capybara named Charlie that was really cute and sweet. He loves grapes and if you scratch him under the chin he makes the trilling happy sound.

  22. Somewhere out there is a children’s book with words and music for ‘Capybaras eat juicy green plants’ by the great Ivor Cutler…

    …and for people in the UK – Whipsanade zoo has a free wandering population of Capybaras.

  23. Our local name for those is “Chigüire”, and when we went on field trips, we joked we got on Capybara suit, as we got muddy all over when collecting plants.

  24. slightly related on the tapir front:

    I know a docent (volunteer) at the Brookfield Zoo. She said her colleague shared this story:

    The tapir, as he is wont to do, had relaxed (excited?) his business to the point where it was touching the floor. A group of teenage girls were shocked at this and asked the docent “what is that”?! He was a little embarassed, but he though well, just tell them and he said “that’s his penis.” The girl replied “I know that, what kind of animal is it!”

  25. Hello Americans (north americans that is…) The name of this animal is CAPIVARA, it only exists here in Brazil (In the wild I mean)and it is the largest rodent on earth!!!! so remmember… CAPIVARA, NOT CAPYBARA… OK????

  26. @ Anonymous #48. Capivara is the name of this animal in Portuguese, but the article is written in English so the name is given correctly in the English form, Capybara. It’s a different language, do you see? In France they call an egg ‘un oeuf’!

    You are incorrect about the distribution, the animal is found, wild, across South America, bar the west.

  27. i so want one of those now. ten seconds ago i didn’t even know they existed but now i totally want one

  28. My two year old just walked over, and upon seeing the above photo, said ‘Beaver! Cute!’

    It’s strange to me that someone could confuse these rodents with wombats, tapirs or peccaries.

  29. Oddly enough, we – the Johns Hopkins University Press – are publishing a book on capybaras.

  30. Wow, giant space hamsters do exist! Now all he needs is an overmuscled and very befuddled warrior sidekick in full plate and packing steel. The group of them could go off and stop undead elves from ending the world… oh, nevermind.

  31. Cabybaras also live near the keys in florida, and they are still considered wild, as they were introduced some 50 or 60 years ago. So they are not just wild in south america

  32. I still love the book Capybobby by Bill Pete (actually, I have yet to read a book from him that I don’t love). At least the Swedish translation of the book explains thoroughly why you absolutely shouldn’t keep capybaras as pets, but that the owner/author didn’t know better at that time. Something of a mode killer for a kid reading about a cute and funny animal.

    Nice to finally see some movies of the animal.

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