Tomorrow is Caplin Day, so today you'll want to prepare to celebrate (get those blueberry yogurt bars into the freezer). Caplin Day is the birthdate of one of the United States' most famous pet capybaras. It may be safe to say that the late, beloved Caplin Rous is the best-known capybara ever, since his successor, Garibaldi "Gari" Rous, does not even have a day named for him yet.
Many of you have heard of the capybara, a native of South America and the world's largest rodent, which weighs roughly 100 pounds at maturity. The Phoenix Zoo has capybaras.
As members of the rodent order Caviidae, capybaras aren't specfically prohibited from being pets in Arizona as long as they were born in the U.S., but it couldn't hurt to check with Game and Fish before you go to all the trouble of acquiring one. Here's Kapi'yva Exotics of Texas, one of multiple places you can reserve a sweet, ranch-bred baby capy for yourself if that's what floats your boat.
They don't live forever (Caplin would have been 6 tomorrow) and seem to have about as many and as frequent annoying little medical issues as your average small child with teeth that never stop growing (vets who know a lot about guinea pigs can often care for them). But if they have clean grass to eat and a place to swim, capybaras exhibit a kind of mellow contentment that appeals to some people who like a lumpy pet that chews on everything and feels like a doormat.
A group in England monitors the health and gene pool of European pet capys, and Gari's owner, Melly, has started the ROUS Foundation on this side of the pond to improve veterinary education and services for the species. (Rous is a name derived from the phrase "rodent of unusual size," from The Princess Bride.)
Though they are hunted for meat and leather in their native lands, they're not in any danger of disappearing soon, perhaps because they breed like, well, rodents, are much bigger than all but apex predators, have a nasty bite of their own when threatened, and can hide underwater for five or six minutes at a time.
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While the last thing the average pet capybara wants to do is escape (they have pathological separation anxiety), stray capys have been spotted in Florida but, unlike everything else in Florida, have not established a confirmed breeding population. We realize that Florida's very special intrusive hybrid supersnakes, not to mention alligators, would probably keep down a capybara outbreak, but it still sounds fun to worry about.
It makes us feel reckless as all hell to dish out the cuteness without the foregoing disclaimers, but now it's cuteness time, with Gari's "diablogs" in which he and Dobbye, another captive capy, write posts to one another about pooping, eating, swimming, and human behavior. (They also like to sleep a lot and cannot raise a paw to say "hi" without tilting their giant heads to keep from tipping over.)
Then there's this lovely poem that is both informative and spiritually resonant.