Capybara Intelligence: How Smart Are These Giant Rodents?

Though a capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) may seem cute and dumb, their actual brain power will surprise you. They have their thinking ability and better skill in many criteria than any other rodent species.

Let’s know about capybara intelligence: how smart are these giant rodents? They have excellent emotional, social, communication, survival, and problem-solving skills. They even can use different tools for accessing shelter or any food sources. Due to their excellent brain power, it’s also easier to train them or teach them new tricks.

In this article, we will discuss the brilliance of these rodent species. You will also know how to train them and compare their smartness with dogs or cats. Hence, keep reading until the end.

Capybara Intelligence: How Smart Are These Giant Rodents?

Though the evaluations of their brilliance aren’t 100% accurate, indeed, the capybaras are more intelligent than other rodent species. Let’s know more about how smart they are:

Capybara Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence

The capybaras, or water hogs, can understand emotions. In the wild, they live in huge groups and are emotionally attached to each other. Even in captivity, they also build up strong emotional attachments with their owners.

If you have one of them as a pet, they will like it when you are close to them. When you don’t give attention to them, they understand that. Then, they will try to get your attention by screaming or jumping around you.

Capybara Emotional Intelligence

Communicational Intelligence

In the wild, capybaras stay in groups and use several vocalizations to communicate with each other. Even in captivity, they will use their facial expressions, screaming, grunting, barking, or whistling, to express their feelings. 

Through differences in their vocalizations, you can understand when they are happy, sad, in pain, or need something.

Besides, they can understand and respond to human languages. If you call them by any particular nickname several times, they can remember that. Thus, whenever you call those names, they will understand that you are calling them and will come to you.

Check this YouTube video to visualize how they communicate with humans:

Social Skills

Capybara has the ability to build up a community with an excellent social hierarchy. There, each of them takes their role of submissions or leadership and follows the roles accordingly. 

Besides, they are also friendly with other animal species like dogs, cats, birds, ducks, etc. They can play with them happily, share their food, and can lay down alongside too.

Smartness in Using Tools

This rodent species can use tools for their convenience while searching for food. They will use sticks to clear their pathways or to dig down to reach the food. Sometimes, they can also use sticks to reach up to something that they can’t reach normally.

Problem-Solving Capability

Capybara Problem-Solving Capability

Water hogs can observe their surroundings and can make decisions to solve any arising problems. Generally, they will proceed with the trial and error method to solve any problems. 

That means if they fail to solve any problems, they will learn from their previous mistakes. Then, they will try again with new approaches.

Your pet capybaras can open the closed door using their feet or teeth. Besides, they can also solve puzzles to get their favorite food. Interestingly, they are also incredible at remembering numbers, relative quantities, and sequences. 

Survival Tricks

The capybaras are quite observant of their surroundings; thus, they can sense the presence of predators easily. To escape from their predator, they may jump into the water and will use their excellent swimming skill.

Moreover, along with their excellent swimming skill, they can also dive underwater. Typically, they can hold their breath for up to 5 minutes, which helps them to hide underwater when the predators are near.

Also, they can smell poisonous foods and plants. Hence, they can stay away from those plants and reject those foods.

Is It Possible To Train Capybaras? How To Train Them?

Yes, you can train these giant rodents quite easily. The younger the capybara the easier it will be for you to train them. At a very young age, they may follow your command without any expectations of treats. 

But, if the water hog isn’t young, it will build up its thinking ability. As a result, it may not do things just because you command them. 

Is It Possible To Train Capybaras

If they find the tricks or tasks interesting, they may follow your command. Otherwise, they will just ignore you. Generally, most capybaras can learn to do the following things:

  • Walking On Ropes
  • Rolling 
  • Sitting Or Lying On Commands
  • Potty Training 

Now, here are a few tips that you can follow to train your capybara to new tricks:

  • You need to offer them treats whenever they obey your command.
  • Don’t force them to do anything if they reject you. Forcing them may result in their aggression and stress. Instead, you need to search for something that they will find interesting.
  • Never make the tricks too complicated for them. They will get confused and will lose interest in those tricks.
  • For potty training, provide them with a particular litter spot and guide them to defecate there.
  • Whenever they are successful in doing tricks, praise them with affectionate words like “good boy/good girl.” This will encourage them to do better in the next tricks.
  • Any negative reinforcement, like yelling or punishing them, will make them stressed or scared of you. With positive reinforcement, you can eliminate or reduce their stress level. Thus, always keep patience and teach them with kindness. 

Are Capybaras More Brilliant Than Cats And Dogs?

Are Capybaras More Brilliant Than Cats And Dogs

As people have been domesticating cats and dogs since ancient times, they are better as pets than capybaras. Yet, if you compare capybaras’ intelligence with cats and dogs, they can do better in many tasks and worse in some tasks. Here are a few examples where they show more brilliance than any cats or dogs:

  • The water hogs can remember the faces of their group mates for a longer period than any average cat and dog.
  • They can smell poisonous plants and fruits, which won’t be possible for cats and dogs.
  • Dogs and cats are also capable of swimming as capybara. But, unlike water hogs, they can’t hold their breath for much time and aren’t as fast swimmers as water hogs.
  • The problem-solving capabilities of capybaras can be better than average dogs or cats.
  • You can teach capybaras a few things your dogs and cats can’t learn easily.
  • The communication ability of these animals is also better than dogs and cats.
  • Capybaras can communicate with their friends from a long distance through their vocalizations. But the cats’ and dogs’ vocalizations aren’t much audible from long distances.

Though in these above cases, the water hogs might be smarter than the pet dogs and cats, in other aspects, dogs and cats might be smarter.

If you’re interested in learning more about capybaras, you might find our articles on the comparison between agouti and capybara and capybara bites informative. Our article on agouti vs. capybara delves into the differences and similarities between these two rodent species, shedding light on their characteristics, behavior, and habitats. Additionally, our article on capybara bites explores the factors that may contribute to capybaras displaying biting behavior and offers insights on how to prevent and address such incidents. These articles provide valuable knowledge about capybaras and their unique traits.


In this FAQs section, we will answer several most common questions about the smartness of water hogs.

Which Gender Of Capybara Has Better Intelligence?

Typically, the female members of water hogs have better intelligence than the male members. According to the Cattell scale evaluation, female water hogs have 20 points more than male ones in intelligence.

How Intelligent Are Capybaras In Comparison With Humans?

The water hogs are way dumber than adult humans. But, their problem-solving abilities are close to that of preschoolers.

Can I Keep This Intelligent Rodent As A Pet?

Before picking intelligent capybaras as a pet, you need to consider state law. In some states, it’s illegal to keep them as pets without any authorized certification or license.


Capybaras or water hogs are intelligent enough to build up a social hierarchy. Not only that, but they also have excellent skills in problem-solving and evading predators. Throughout the article, we already discussed capybara intelligence: how smart are these giant rodents?

In many aspects, they are way smarter than dogs and cats. Also, you can train them to do tricks on your command or to defecate only in particular places. Remember, don’t get angry with them if they can’t learn any tricks; always keep patience while training them.

Lisa G

Meet Lisa G, the founder and author of With over 3 years of experience studying and observing various species of rodents. Lisa has established herself as a credible expert in the field. Her passion for these often-overlooked animals shines through in her in-depth articles and engaging writing style. Follow her blog to learn fascinating facts and gain a new appreciation for the furry creatures that share our world.

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