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Capybara vs. Hippopotamus: The Gentle Giants Compared

Capybaras and hippopotamuses are both large, semi-aquatic mammals that live in Africa and South America. They have some similarities, such as being herbivorous, social, and having thick skin. However, they also have many differences, such as their size, taxonomy, behavior, and conservation status. In this blog, we will compare and contrast these two gentle giants and learn more about their fascinating lives.


  • Start with a hook to capture the reader’s attention. For example, you could use a surprising fact, a question, a quote, or a personal anecdote related to capybaras or hippopotamuses.
  • Provide some background information on capybaras and hippopotamuses, such as their scientific names, distribution, habitat, and appearance.
  • State the main purpose and scope of your blog, and preview the main points you will cover in the body paragraphs.

Here is a possible introduction paragraph:

Did you know that the world’s largest rodent and the world’s third-largest land mammal are both semi-aquatic? Meet the capybara and the hippopotamus, two amazing animals that spend most of their time in or near water. The capybara, also known as the water pig, is a rodent that can weigh up to 65 kg and measure up to 135 cm in length. It is native to South America, where it lives in groups of up to 40 individuals along rivers, lakes, and swamps. The hippopotamus, also known as the river horse, is a mammal that can weigh up to 4,000 kg and measure up to 5 m in length. It is native to Africa, where it lives in groups of up to 100 individuals in rivers, lakes, and wetlands. Despite their apparent similarities, these two animals have many differences in their biology, ecology, and behavior. In this blog, we will compare and contrast the capybara and the hippopotamus in terms of their diet, digestion, reproduction, communication, and conservation.

What are some similarities between capybaras and hippopotamuses?

Some similarities between capybaras and hippopotamuses are:

  • They are both large, semi-aquatic mammals that live in Africa and South America12.
  • They are both herbivorous, social, and have thick skin.
  • They both sleep near water, where they can quickly dive in and escape from predators12.
  • They both communicate with each other through vocalizations, body postures, and scent marking

Capybaras and hippos, despite being different species and belonging to distinct geographical regions, share some interesting similarities:

  1. Semi-Aquatic Lifestyle:
  • Both capybaras and hippos are semi-aquatic mammals, spending a significant amount of time in and around water. They are excellent swimmers and often submerge themselves to stay cool or evade predators.
  1. Herbivorous Diet:
  • Both species are herbivores, meaning they primarily feed on plant matter. Capybaras graze on grasses and aquatic plants, while hippos consume grasses and other vegetation.
  1. Social Behavior:
  • Capybaras and hippos are known for their social nature. Capybaras are highly social rodents that often live in groups, providing each other with protection. Hippos, while more territorial, can also be found in groups, especially in water bodies.
  1. Maternal Care:
  • Both capybaras and hippos exhibit strong maternal care. Female capybaras are attentive mothers, and hippo calves are cared for by their mothers who often keep them close in the water.
  1. Territorial Behavior:
  • While capybaras are generally known for their friendly and social behavior, hippos are more territorial and can be aggressive, especially when it comes to protecting their territory or young.
  1. No Sweat Glands:
  • Neither capybaras nor hippos have sweat glands. To regulate their body temperature, they rely on activities such as wallowing in water or mud, which helps cool their bodies through evaporation.
  1. Large Size:
  • Capybaras and hippos are among the largest mammals in their respective groups. Capybaras are the largest rodents, while hippos are one of the largest terrestrial mammals.
  1. Vocalizations:
  • Both capybaras and hippos communicate using vocalizations. Capybaras may use vocal signals to communicate within their social groups, while hippos are known for their distinctive grunts, roars, and honks.
  1. Nocturnal Activity:
  • Both species are known to be more active during the night, engaging in nocturnal behavior for feeding and social activities.

Despite these similarities, it’s essential to note that capybaras and hippos belong to different taxonomic orders (Capybaras are rodents, while hippos are ungulates) and inhabit different continents (capybaras in South America and hippos in Africa). Their behaviors and adaptations have evolved independently based on their specific environments and ecological niches.

What are some differences between capybaras and hippopotamuses?

TaxonomyRodents (Family: Hydrochoeridae)Ungulates (Family: Hippopotamidae)
Geographic DistributionSouth AmericaAfrica
Size77 to 146 lbs (35 to 66 kg), 3.3 to 4.4 ft3,500 to 9,920 lbs (1,600 to 4,500 kg), 10 to 16.5 ft
Social StructureHighly social, live in groupsSocial but more territorial and aggressive
HabitatVarious habitats including grasslands, forests, and near waterPrimarily aquatic, spend significant time in water
BehaviorGenerally calm and gentle, herbivoresCan be aggressive, especially when threatened
Dental StructureAdapted for grazing on vegetation, continually growing incisorsLarge canine and incisor teeth for tearing vegetation
Active PeriodDiurnal (active during the day)Nocturnal (active during the night)
Sweat GlandsLack sweat glands, regulate temperature through behaviors like wallowingLack sweat glands, rely on staying in water or mud for temperature control
Natural PredatorsJaguars, caimans, and anacondas are some of their natural predatorsLimited natural predators due to their size and aggression, but humans and crocodiles pose threats
CommunicationCommunicate through vocalizations, grooming, and body languageVocalizations including grunts, roars, and honks; use vocalizations to communicate within groups
ReproductionGive birth to litters of about 2 to 8 pups after a gestation period of around 150 daysSingle calf born after a gestation period of about 8 months
Life SpanAverage lifespan of 8 to 10 years in the wildCan live up to 40 years in the wild
Feeding HabitsHerbivores, primarily graze on grasses and aquatic plantsHerbivores, grazing on grasses and other vegetation; may also consume fruit
Foot StructureWebbed feet for efficient swimming and walking on muddy surfacesFour-toed feet, adapted for walking on land and in water
Conservation StatusLeast Concern (population stable)Vulnerable due to habitat loss and poaching; conservation status is a concern
Group NamesGroups are often referred to as “herds” or “groups”Groups are called a “bloat,” “pod,” or “herd”

How do capybaras and hippopotamuses interact with their environment?

HabitatNative to South America; diverse habitats including grassy plains, rainforests, and near water bodiesNative to sub-Saharan Africa; primarily found in aquatic environments like rivers and lakes
Swimming BehaviorExcellent swimmers with partially webbed feet; spend significant time in waterSkilled swimmers with buoyant bodies; adapted for aquatic life
DietHerbivores; graze on grass, aquatic plants, and various vegetationMostly herbivorous; consume grass and aquatic vegetation
Social StructureHighly social; live in groups led by a dominant male; communal care of youngTerritorial behavior; can be solitary or live in small groups; territorial marking through dung showering
ShelterUtilize communal burrows for shelter, often near water sourcesRest near water; seek refuge in dense vegetation; no communal burrows
VocalizationsVarious vocalizations including purring, barking, and alarm callsGrunts, roars, honks; used for social interactions and signaling threats
ReproductionFemales give birth to litters; communal care within the groupGive birth to a single calf; maternal protection near water
AggressivenessGenerally non-aggressive; exhibit gentle behaviorKnown for aggressiveness, particularly during mating season
Skin AdaptationsNo specialized skin adaptationsSecrete natural sunscreen and moisturizer for skin protection
Environmental ImpactInfluence vegetation dynamics through grazing; essential in shaping ecosystemsImpact vegetation in aquatic ecosystems through grazing