The Argentine Tehuelches and Chilean Mapuches people have lived in the harsh regions of Argentina for centuries. Some areas are drought-ridden most of the year, with extreme temperature fluctuations and intense wind currents. Patagonian cavies have served as an abundant source of meat for the people of their native region throughout history, and still today.
Patagonian cavies are also used for their hides. Much like the hides of hares, people use the cavies’ hide to make bedspreads and rugs for their homes, as well as fur lined clothing items such as gloves, hats, and coats.
The Patagonian cavy may be kept as a pet. They can be very social when raised and handled frequently by people. It is not uncommon for a cavy to learn to walk on a leash, and even be housebroken. In the wild, however, Patagonian cavies avoid human interaction.
Male and female Patagonian cavies are similar in size. When fully grown they typically stand around 30 inches tall and weigh about 35 pounds. They look much like a hare with their long, slender legs. When they move they more closely resemble a deer; walking, bounding and dashing at speeds that may reach over 30 mph. They have large erect ears, large eyes, and a square muzzle. Unlike the soft tail of a hare, the cavy’s tail is very small and hard. The Patagonian cavy’s coat is brownish-gray in color, except on their underside, which is an orange-tinted white color.
Patagonian cavies live in burrows they dig in the ground. They live communally, sharing these burrows with up to 20 breeding pairs. Even though they live in large groups, Patagonian cavies are monogamous, mating with a single partner for life. In the den, each mother cavy is solely responsible for feeding and caring for her young. While the female cavies look after the young, the male cavies keep a vigilant watch over the burrows for predators outside.
1. World’s 4th largest rodent.
2. In the wild, they live solely in Argentina.
3. They are monogamous for life.
The Patagonian cavy, also known as the Patagonian mara, is the world’s largest rodent. In the wild, they are native only to Argentina, residing in semi-open sandy plains and shrub land.
Though only found natively in Argentina, Patagonian cavies are quite prevalent there and live throughout the country. Cavies feed on vegetation and berries. They are able to survive in areas where over-grazing has left the land barren.
Patagonian cavies look like jackrabbits, but are more closely related to the guinea pig and beaver.