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2022: The Year the World went Capybara Crazy

Love them or hate them, these big rodents have taken over.

Credit: Instagram/@nocap_capybara

The capybara is the largest rodent native to South America but now they’re impossible to escape all around the world. Worried about robots taking over the world? Forget it, capybaras already have.

What is a Capybara?

Capybaras, sometimes referred to as ‘rat-pigs’ or by their even more catchy name, Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris, are large rodents closely related to guinea pigs. They are originally from South America and live in dense forests or savanna habitats. Capybaras are peaceful herbivores who mainly consume a diet of grasses, aquatic plants, and fruits whilst dodging their main predators, jaguars, crocodiles, and anaconda snakes. They are social creatures who live in groups of up to 100 members. Oddly, capybaras are known to eat their own poop, a practice known as autocoprophagous, as the bacteria helps them digest cellulose from plants.

A capybara chilling with his little guinea-pig friends. Credit: Reddit/r/capybara/huet_fan

Why do people love Capybaras so much?

So, other than interesting fecal facts, I wanted to find out why capybaras have become so popular in the past year. I spoke to nocap_capybara, a leading capybara Instagram meme account with nearly 50K followers. They said,

I love capybaras because they are so unique, especially with their size. They are the largest rodent in the world! They are also super cute and make me (as well as a lot of other people) smile.

@nocap_capybara

It seems these cuddly rodents are similarly popular with other creatures in the animal kingdom. Often named the friendliest animal in the world, capybaras are known to get along with humans, dogs, cats, birds, horses…even crocodiles! They have a calm and compassionate nature and are known to adopt wild strays or abandoned animals. As the leading capybara reddit page (r/Capybara) says the capybara is “a terminally chill animal, and they are pros at sleeping, snacking, and of course, chillin’… Fact: anyone who doesn’t know about capybaras is ignorant.” Harsh words from the capybara fanatics.

Cat massaging capybara. Credit: Twitter/@RobertMaguire_

Capybara Memes

The popularization of capybaras actually began in 2007 through Japanese photographer, Katsuhito Watanabe’s capybara photography blog. This led to a YouTube account that has now exploded into a whole world of online capybara content.

Perhaps the first major capybara meme came from a BBC Planet Earth II documentary in 2016 (shown below) in which a capybara looks shocked at the sight of the brutal attack that just took place. The “shocked capybara” became a trending gif across Twitter and the internet, catapulting capybaras into the hearts of many.

Shocked capybara. Credit: Twitter/@Jodie_ Eastwood

Then, in mid-2021, capybaras invaded an Argentinian suburb! Global news outlets reported on huge numbers of capybaras settling in an expensive gated community in Buenos Aires. Capybaras became a symbol of communism and revolution in rising up against the wealthy elite.

So, from political figureheads, to cuddly creatures, to feces fans, capybaras have taken over the internet this year. After all, as @nocap_capybara said, the joy of capybaras is their variety as “there are so many different options of posts to make with capybaras!”

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