capybara (kăpĭbârˈə) [key], mammal of Central and much of South America. It is the largest living member of the order Rodentia (the rodents) reaching a length of 4 ft (120 cm) and a weight of 75 to 100 lb (34–45 kg). Its brownish hair flecked with yellow is coarse and scanty, and its tail rudimentary. The feet are partially webbed, and there are four thick-nailed toes on the front feet and three on the hind feet. The capybara is an expert swimmer and diver. It eats vegetation and sometimes damages crops. It is hunted for food, its hide is made into gloves, and its bristles are used in brushes. It is also called water hog and carpincho. Capybaras are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Rodentia, family Hydrochoeridae.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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See more Encyclopedia articles on: Vertebrate Zoology

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