Capybaras have enjoyed a surprising amount of attention and interest in recent years, with many people admiring these beautiful animals. They have even been kept as exotic pets in some situations, but are capybaras dangerous? Let’s find out!
Capybaras are not directly dangerous, but like any animal, they can be if they feel threatened. These large rodents have big, sharp teeth, and they are sometimes quite domineering. If you wish to keep capybaras, you will need to do a lot of research and make sure that you are capable of handling them.
In This Article
How Dangerous Are Capybaras?
Capybaras are not really very dangerous in most cases. These rodents are actually rather like oversized guinea pigs, which may explain their popularity with people looking for exotic and unusual pets. There is no denying that they are very cute.
They do, however, have big and extremely sharp teeth, and unlike a guinea pig, they are rather large animals! Capybaras are the largest rodent on Earth, and that means that – like any big animal – they should be treated with some respect.
Although capybaras rarely bite, they should be considered somewhat dangerous, because they can inflict real damage if they choose to. You should not ignore this potential; it is very real and could result in serious injury if you don’t take some precautions.
If someone says that capybaras are not dangerous, it does not mean that you should provoke one, or ignore body language and signs that indicate the animals are getting stressed or scared.
If you are thinking of adopting a capybara, or even if you are just handling one, pay attention to its body language and the context in which you are interacting with the animal, and make sure it has the space to move away from you if it wants to.
Also read: Can Capybaras Swim?
Are Capybaras Aggressive?
On the whole, no, capybaras are not aggressive creatures. They are peaceful herbivores that like to graze and wander around in herds. However, if something upsets a capybara or it is feeling territorial, it could potentially become aggressive and try to bite you.
Let’s look at when you might observe aggression in a capybara.
Scenario One: Loneliness
Capybaras are very much herd animals. They depend on other members of their herds for a sense of safety and a sense of companionship. They interact with each other and spend all their time with each other.
A capybara that has no companions or only human companions will likely not be a happy creature. While human companionship will help it, this is not sufficient on its own; a capybara needs at least one friend in order to be happy.
Just like guinea pigs should only be kept in pairs, you should not take on a capybara unless you can have two or more. It will be miserable, and this misery will often be expressed through aggression.
It might seem odd that a creature suffering from loneliness would bite the person that keeps it company, but a capybara has few ways of expressing itself and may lash out if it is unhappy. You might notice this behavior particularly when you are getting ready to leave the house.
These animals really don’t like being alone, and won’t tolerate it for long.
Scenario Two: Territorial Behavior
While they are gentle herbivores, capybaras can also be quite aggressive with each other or with any other creature that they feel is invading their territory. If you approach a capybara in a way that makes it feel threatened or that its position is being threatened, it might bite you.
This is particularly true of males, especially during the mating season. If you plan to keep capybaras, it is important to familiarize yourself with this kind of behavior and the times of year at which you should expect it, and then take steps to keep everyone safe.
This may mean not approaching your capybaras during certain times of year. Remember, children are more likely to be injured by a capybara because they are smaller and more vulnerable to being bitten.
A male is also more likely to try and display territorial behavior around a child, who might seem like a tempting target for his aggression.
Scenario Three: Boredom
If you are thinking of keeping capybaras inside your home, you will need to reconsider. These are large animals. They can stand up to two feet tall at the shoulders and are around four and a half feet long! They need space.
To keep these giant rodents, you will need to build an outdoor pen that is suitable, and incorporate a permanent pool of some sort that they can swim in. They also love mud and grass, and will happily roll around until they are filthy.
You cannot keep a capybara indoors, even if your home is large. The outdoors is their natural environment and provides the enrichment that they need. Keeping them inside is cruel and will result in destructive and very aggressive behavior.
Scenario Four: Too Much Handling
Although capybaras are social creatures and they like to be with you, they aren’t like cats or dogs. They have not evolved to be constantly stroked and patted.
If your capybara feels that you are touching it too much, or that your play is turning a little rough, it will probably bite you, and it may bite hard.
Remember, these are prey animals, and that means they are instinctively wary of other animals. Cats and dogs are apex predators, and can generally handle play fighting or tussling because they do not need to be afraid of people.
You should treat your capybara’s space with respect. If you want to touch the rodent, allow it to come to you, rather than going to it. This will help it to feel safe and secure and will give it a chance to back off if it needs space.
Are Capybara Bites Dangerous?
Any bite can be dangerous, and a capybara bite is often large and created using very sharp teeth. These teeth (like all rodents’ teeth) also keep growing to replace parts that get worn away, so they will not be short or blunt!
A capybara is unlikely to rip or shred at your arm, but it is worth noting that their teeth can certainly do significant damage, especially if you suffer from multiple bites. In the wild, capybaras use their teeth to defend themselves, and they don’t hold back.
Some people claim that capybaras can even defend themselves from snakes and jaguars with their teeth, so don’t underestimate these rodents!
It is also possible for a capybara bite to transmit certain diseases, especially if it has not been vaccinated. Rabies, cayenne tick, and tetanus are common illnesses to be aware of if you get bitten by your pet. You need to get treated by medical professionals if you get bitten.
Capybaras have a reputation for being gentle giants, and it is reasonably accurate most of the time, but you should be aware that these large rodents will use their teeth when they feel threatened.
If you want to keep capybaras, familiarize yourself with their needs thoroughly so you can ensure that your pets have everything that they require. This minimizes the risk of being bitten, although it does not completely eliminate that risk.