In a world seemingly intent on destroying itself, the humble capybara is a wholesome good. The oversized friendship guinea pig is a reminder of what humanity could achieve if we stopped yelling at each other on the internet. That’s why this week on Animals Are Good, we’re celebrating the world’s largest-and chillest-rodent, the capybara.
Capybaras ( Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) live in social groups of 10 to 20 in the forests of Central and South America. They spend their days ingesting large quantities of grass (nice) and hanging out by freshwater streams and marshes. They even mate in the water, which we won’t get into as this is a family website.
“Capybaras are semi aquatic animals that inhabit places always close to bodies of water, they use water as shelter, they can hide beneath aquatic vegetation, which they also feed on,” Vanessa Ilukewitsch, a researcher in conservation medicine at La Universidad Andrés Bello in Chile told Gizmodo. “They are very well adapted to an aquatic lifestyle and can swim only leaving the nostrils, eyes and ears out of the water. [They] can even remain several minutes underwater and float very well thanks to their fatty tissue.”
Though they are undeniably adorable, sometimes, capybaras can be a little gross.
“Like rabbits, they practice coprophagy, or eating their own feces to recycle undigested nutrients,” wildlife biologist Imogene Cancellare told Gizmodo. “But really they’re like any other large herbivore in that they pose little threat to other wildlife.”
Capybaras have become internet-famous for their ability to befriend just about anything, from kittens to alligators. There are myriad photos of capybaras cuddling with with turtles, birds, and monkeys. No one really knows why capybaras are so magnetic-maybe they just know something about kindness and compassion humans don’t.
“[It’s] a very unexpected piece of evolution,” Cancellare said. “They’re so chill.”