What Do Capybaras Eat?

capybara eating vegetables

What do capybaras eat? You might be surprised to learn that these gentle giants, the largest rodents on Earth, have a diverse and specialized diet.

Capybaras are strict herbivores, primarily feeding on a variety of grasses, aquatic plants, fruits, and even tree bark.

Detailed Insight into Capybara Diet

Capybaras, the world’s largest rodents, are native to South America’s marshes, rivers, and swamps, capybaras are fascinating creatures with dietary habits that play a crucial role in their ecosystems.

Understanding what capybaras eat not only sheds light on their ecological role but also informs how they can be cared for in captivity.

Primary Food Sources

Capybaras are adapted to a plant-based diet. Their digestive systems are specially adapted to process a high-fiber diet efficiently:

  • Grasses and Aquatic Plants: These make up the majority of a capybara’s diet. They consume a wide range of water-loving plants that grow in or near bodies of water.
  • Fruit and Vegetables: While not a primary component of their wild diet, capybaras will eat various fruits and vegetables when available.
  • Tree Bark and Branches: They occasionally chew on bark and soft twigs, which helps them maintain their ever-growing teeth.

Nutritional Needs and Foraging Behavior

Capybaras spend much of their time foraging near bodies of water. They are highly social animals and typically forage in groups, which provides safety and increases the efficiency of finding food.

  • Feeding Adaptations: Capybaras have complex, multi-chambered stomachs that allow them to ferment and break down fibrous plant material effectively, extracting maximum nutrients.
  • Social Foraging: Living in groups helps them protect each other while foraging and resting.

Ideal Foods for Capybaras

Capybaras eating on the grass
  • High-Quality Grass Hay: Forms the basis of their diet in captivity, mimicking the grasses they would consume in the wild.
  • Pellets for Rodents: Specially formulated pellets can supplement a capybara’s diet, providing essential nutrients.
  • Fresh Vegetables and Fruits: These should be offered sparingly to avoid digestive issues but can add variety and extra nutrients to their diet.

Dietary Considerations

  • Avoid Overfeeding: Capybaras can become overweight if their diet is not properly managed.
  • Monitor Plant Toxicity: Some plants are toxic to capybaras; care should be taken to ensure only safe plants are available to them.

Plants Toxic to Capybaras: What to Avoid

Capybaras, being herbivores, can eat a wide variety of plant materials, but not all plants are safe for them. Some plants can be toxic and pose serious health risks to capybaras. Here are some commonly known plants that are toxic to capybaras and should be avoided:

  • Rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum) – The leaves of rhubarb contain oxalic acid, which is toxic to many animals, including capybaras.
  • Avocado (Persea americana) – All parts of the avocado plant, especially the pit and leaves, contain persin, a fungicidal toxin that can cause serious health issues in many animals.
  • Castor Bean (Ricinus communis) – This plant contains ricin, a highly toxic protein that can be lethal even in small amounts.
  • Oleander (Nerium oleander) – Every part of this common ornamental shrub is toxic to most animals due to the presence of cardiac glycosides.
  • Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) – Contains digitalis, a compound that affects the heart and can be very dangerous to capybaras and other animals if ingested.
  • Lilies (Lilium and Hemerocallis spp.) – Certain types of lilies are highly toxic to many animals, causing potentially fatal kidney damage.
  • Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta) – All parts of this plant, particularly the seeds, contain cycasin, which can cause liver failure and neurological damage.


Capybaras have a diet that is highly specialized to their habitats, primarily consisting of a variety of grasses and aquatic plants.

In captivity, their diet needs careful management to avoid health issues and mimic natural feeding as closely as possible.

Understanding the dietary needs of capybaras helps in providing proper care and maintaining their health and well-being.