Do People Eat Capybaras?

do people eat capybaras

People of South America and capybaras have lived peacefully one beside each other for hundreds if not thousands of years. It’s mostly due to the capybara‘s benign and tranquil nature. But being a big and tasty 130-pound animal wasn’t doing them any favors.

Their genus name is derived from the Greek Hydrochoerus, literally meaning, you guessed it, water pig.

If you’re a fan of the biggest rodent in the world – capybara (capivara or carpincho in Portuguese and chigüire or chigüiro in Spanish), you’ll be disappointed to learn the following:

People do eat capybaras and have done so for thousands of years. They are considered a delicacy all over Latin America (except Chile) and especially in Venezuela where the biggest rodent in the world is prevalent.

I know, I know, it’s not easy to hear that if you’ve watched every video of capybaras soaking in hot water on YouTube, but that’s the reality of life. People eat all kinds of animals, including cats and dogs.

Capybaras are semiaquatic mammals found throughout almost all countries of South America except Chile and are considered a delicacy, especially in Venezuela.

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In Venezuela, rodent meat is a sought-after delicacy, fetching prices almost double those for beef.

In the west, or should I say the north, when you mention a rodent, people think of hamsters and rats, and we don’t eat them, of course.

But now, imagine if this huge 130-pound animal that tastes like pork was native to Europe or North America. Would we be eating them? Probably.

Capybaras used to be one of the most common animals in the Great Plains. But many were killed by the Spanish conquistadors, who introduced cows that compete with capybaras for land. You’ll find out more about the crafty conquistadors below.

Capybara Hunting

Capybara hunting in Argentina is open all year round. As one hunting booker puts it, “Capybara hunting is popular in every country along with its range, even in Brazil, where it’s forbidden. The rodent is pursued for its skin, for a special fatty substance covering its hairs and is used in the perfumery, and most of all for its meat”.

Although there may have been local extinctions throughout their range, the species is not endangered.

How Does Capybara Meat Taste Like?

Capybara has a Latin name of Hydrochoerus which means water pig. That’s one reason they’ve been used as a food source for centuries.

Although I haven’t tried it personally, various sources say that their meat tastes like pork meat with a hint of fishiness. Many Venezuelans actually insist that the capybara is more similar to fish than to meat. When the meat is salted, capybara tastes like a mixture of sardines and pork.

Is Capybara A Fish?!

When Catholics were prohibited from eating meat on Friday, the conquistadors petitioned the Vatican in the 18th century to declare the capybara fair game on Fridays. They asked the Pope, based on the fact that capybara spends most of its time in the water, if we can call it a fish from now on, and the Pope said – yeah, it’s a fish! You guys go wild.

capybara fish
Let’s get us some fish.

Many Venezuelans are grateful the Vatican gave the animal the status of fish, allowing its consumption during Lent no matter how bizarre it might seem. Well, they do swim, and that could be enough to qualify for a fish, right?

Other Animals Eat Them Too

Poor capybaras, they are so delicious and big that everyone wants to eat them. Besides people, they are the preferred meal for multiple South American animals:

  • Anaconda
  • Jaguar
  • Puma
  • Ocelot
  • Caimans
  • Eagles
It’s all fun and games until someone gets eaten

As you can see, the list of animals trying to eat mellow capybaras is pretty savage. There are numerous videos on YouTube of capybaras being eaten or hunted by animals.

Yup, I’ll reemphasize again, being a fairly big and delicious animal is not a plus in the wild. If vicious animals aren’t going to eat you, then humans will.

There’s one more reason why people exploit capybaras, and that is…

Capybara‘s Leather

Capybara, or carpincho leather as it is commonly known, is manufactured from the soft hide of capybaras.

In Argentina, the only manufacturing exporter in the world of capybara products, only farmed animals can be used for leather manufacturing. And even though capybara isn’t endangered, Argentina strictly regulates the harvesting and exporting of any of these animal hide byproducts.

For these reasons, the carpincho counterfeit market has found a niche in mainstream shopping in Europe and South America.

Related Questions

What does capybara meat taste like?

Most people that have tried eating capybara meat say that it tastes like pork. Capybaras are considered a delicacy in Venezuela and some other Latin American countries where capybaras can be found roaming freely.

Do capybaras bite?

Capybaras are considered generally friendly towards humans and other animals they get along with. They can bite and can inflict significant damage with their sharp rodent teeth.

Do capybaras get aggressive?

Although capybaras are docile most of the time, if they get attacked or feel like they or their young might be in danger, capybaras will defend themselves and be intimidating and aggressive towards their attacker.

Do capybaras smell bad?

Capybaras aren’t considered smelly animals. They are generally clean and love to spend time swimming. They have fur that’s easy to clean, maintain, and keep odorless.

What country eats capybara?

Although they’ve been known to be eaten across Latin America, capybaras are mostly eaten in Venezuela, while Chilean people don’t consume them almost at all.

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Adrian Volenik

I've lived around animals my whole life and I hold a Diploma in Animal Physiology. When I'm not reading or writing about wild animals, health and fitness, and technology, you can find me playing with my son and two cats. My pastimes include running, playing video games, and solving the NY Times crossword.