Can Capybaras Swim?

Capybaras are the biggest rodents on the planet so you might be wondering how they fare in the water. Capybaras definitely can swim, and they are very strong swimmers. These rodents spend a large percentage of their time in the water and seem to really enjoy swimming, so don’t be surprised or concerned if you see one in the water, even if it is out of its depth. It should be absolutely fine.

Capybaras might look a bit big for paddling around, but they spend a lot of time in the water and can be very agile in spite of their size. They often retreat to the water to get away from predators such as wild cats and snakes, and they can spend long hours paddling, wading, or swimming around without any issue.

What Makes Capybaras Good Swimmers?

The capybara is well adapted to spending a lot of time in the water, and incredibly, some even take naps while on the edge of the water. Their mating behaviour even heavily depends on being in the water. There are a few things that allow them to be so at home in the water, including:

  • Their features are high up on their faces. A capybara’s nostrils, ears, and eyes are all positioned high up on the animal’s face, meaning that it can submerge most of its body and still smell, see, hear, and breathe just fine. This is what allows a capybara to safely fall asleep in the water; it is still able to breathe without effort.
  • They have webbed toes. This helps them to swim much more quickly, because their feet have more resistance and can drive them through the water faster.
  • Their fur is wiry and does not soak up much water. This would weigh the capybara down when it got out of the water, so it’s better to have fur that lets the water just roll off the animal’s back reasonably quickly.
  • They have clawed feet, which give them a better grip on slippery surfaces, helping them to find purchase on rocks at the bottom of the water. These claws can also help them to walk on mud and sand more easily.
  • They have excellent lungs and can hold their breath for up to five minutes. That allows them to dive to escape from predators.
  • Their ears can be pressed flat against their heads, preventing water from getting trapped in them when the capybara is diving.
  • Their hind legs are a little longer than their front legs, meaning they can get a powerful kick off into the water.

As you can see, the capybara is very well adapted for swimming, although young ones do need to learn how to do this – they aren’t born with the skills. Part of the reason that these animals spend so much time in the water is that they live in a very hot climate, and the water helps them to keep cool.

This is why capybaras are often to be seen napping alongside the edge of pools or in mangroves, or paddling out with their young to the middle of pools. It keeps them safe, but it also keeps them cool. A capybara must have water to be happy, and anyone who wants to own a capybara needs to provide lots of aquatic space for them.

Capybara family swimming

How Fast Can Capybaras Swim?

Capybaras may not look like they can move fast, but actually, they can swim up to five miles an hour if they feel inclined to move quickly. They will usually do this if they are feeling threatened by a predator.

Usually, capybaras are safer in the water than on land, but they may still pick up speed to deter any land predators from taking to the water with them. For example, a capybara being pursued by a wild cat might swim at top speed in order to quickly get away from the bank, and show the predator it is not a viable target.

Of course, there are predators in the water too at times, and this may mean that a capybara swims more quickly. However, they tend to feel safer in the water, and most of the time, they will not move at anything like five miles per hour.

Instead, they will meander gently along the banks and wallow in the shallows, enjoying the cool of the water. Unless there is a cause to move fast, they tend to take a sedate pace and seem to be most relaxed when they are in the water, rather than when they are on land.

Remember too that capybaras can dive and hold their breath for up to five minutes, so they may not hit this speed while on the surface, but they certainly can do so underwater. They have a reasonably streamlined shape, reducing the drag of the water and letting them pick up speed.

A capybara racing along the bottom of a lake is an extraordinary sight, and not one you should miss out on – you can easily check out plenty of videos of this online, and you might be amazed by just how quickly these animals can move underwater when they want to. It is no wonder this is an effective means of escaping from predators.

You might also like: Are Capybaras Dangerous?

Is It Safe To Swim With Capybaras?

If you have a pet capybara or you see a group of them paddling around in the wild, you might be wondering whether it is safe for you to get in the water with them. After all, there are many creatures that you should not swim with.

It is probably best not to swim with wild capybaras. Although these animals do not often bite, they do have very sharp teeth. If one feels threatened by you or you get too close to its young, it is quite capable of inflicting a painful and serious bite.

During the mating season, wild capybaras may also become quite territorial and could turn aggressive even though they are usually peaceful. It is not a good idea to approach a wild animal, even if it doesn’t seem like a dangerous situation. You probably won’t get badly hurt by a capybara, but you may get attacked or bitten.

Even a pet capybara should be treated with caution and respect. These might be rodents, but they are the largest rodents in the world, and they are powerful creatures. If you do choose to swim with a pet capybara, always keep an eye on its body language, and watch out for signs that it is feeling threatened or aggressive.

With such large, sharp teeth, a pet capybara could seriously hurt you, and you probably will not be able to swim faster than it can in the water. The best human swimmers may be able to match a capybara, but in general, these giant rodents will outstrip a human in the water.

It is best not to swim with capybaras, whether they are pets or wild. Always make sure you are treating these animals with respect, and never forget that they are large creatures with very sharp, chisel-like teeth.


Capybaras certainly can swim, and they are surprisingly fast swimmers. They spend a lot of their time in the water, and their bodies have adapted to this in many different ways. With the positioning of their eyes, ears, and noses, plus their good lungs and webbed feet, they are as at home in the water as they are on land.

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