Capybaras make the most beautiful sounds and vocalisations. When they are happy, or pleased to see you, they make a soft, chuckling sound known in academic circles as “click call”.
Capybaras are very gregarious and often vocalize.
A Capybara chorus, when a number of capybaras sing in unison, is truly magical. You can hear a capybara chorus when a group of capybaras decides to go on the move; perhaps they decide on a mass exodus from land into their pond. The “singing” can go on for half an hour or longer. A group of females interested in the male capybara will also make a beautiful, exciting sound and the male capybara will respond.
In this video you can hear a herd of female capybaras singing in unison. Capybaras make the most beautiful vocalisations when the females sing to the males and the males sing to the females. In this video the female capybaras set off en masse to visit Toku, the male capybara. This procession may start when a very high ranking female capybara, it used to be Donguri, sets off towards Toku’s enclosure. She will sometimes bark to announce her departure and she very often makes a deep, gruff call. Toku also often sings when they arrive. When they arrive at Toku’s enclosure some of the capybaras rub their morillos on the fence of his enclosure or on the rope barrier just before the entrance to his enclosure. This morillo rubbing is usually done by the most senior capybaras in the hierarchy, Donguri, Hinase, Maple, Momiji and Zabon, although Ryoko, Aoba and some of the younger ones also rub their morillos.
The capybaras also send chemical messages by squeezing their anal scent glands, which they do with a characteristic walk crossing their hind legs. They also deposit faeces and urine at the entrance to Toku’s enclosure. Much bottom sniffing goes on as well.
When a capybara is anxious he or she will repeatedly make a shrill warning call, which sounds like a whistle (see video number 8). Baby capybaras make this call quite frequently when they lose contact with their mothers. Subordinate male capybaras’ main role in the herd is to act as lookouts. They stay on the periphery of the herd and make warning calls at the first sign of danger.
A mother capybara makes the most wonderful sound as her babies suckle. She goes into a trancelike state, her eyes glaze over, her hair rises in pleasure (known as pilo-erection) and you can see her nose vibrate with each vocalisation.
Capybaras also communicate in the ultrasonic and infrasonic sound ranges inaudible to human ears. If you are next to a capybara when he/she makes an infrasonic call you will feel his/her body vibrate. Some capybaras also “huff” when they are annoyed, as a protest.
1. This is the sound of a very happy capybara: Tuff’n is one of the most vocal capybara I have met. When he was a young pup Tuff’n sometimes vocalised for much of the day; a juvenile i.e., very young capybara does this to keep in touch with his herd and to let the herd know where he is. Tuff’s nerd was Romeo. Now that he is an adult Tuff’n only “sings” for specific reasons, for example, in anticipation of being petted or being given food, making his ‘happy sound’ (click call) as he wanders round the house, or when he is eating or even when he “poohs”! Tuff’n is a hedonist and loves to be pampered or to laze all day in the sun. He has a very loud voice as well, even though, in this video, he is still just a 2-month-old baby. Sometimes his happy call is interspersed with a shrill call to let Romeo know where he is, as in this video. Tuff’n is bonded to Romeo, whereas Romeo is bonded to the humans he lives with. Tuff’n becomes very anxious if he doesn’t know where Romeo is. Romeo becomes very anxious if his humans leave the home.
2. The sound of a whole herd of capybaras singing in unison is truly magical. Here you can hear the herd singing loudly in the background as you watch young Yuzu slipping about as she tries to scratch herself on a slippery, mossy ledge in the pond.カピバラの群れの曲の全体的な音が一斉に素晴らしい、本当に魔法です。ここでは、滑り若いゆずを見ることができます。彼女は苔むした、滑りやすい棚の上に自分自身を傷つけしようとします。池の中
Here is another video of fifteen Capybaras singing in unison. Everything comes alive with the magical sound of Capybaras. This chorus goes on for up to half an hour or longer. Some afternoons we were treated to it on at least two or three occasions over the course of the afternoon, other afternoons no chorus at all. After watermelon time, one or two capybaras make their escape to the freedom of the pond, while the others remain in the petting area. Then the chorus starts as the capybaras begin to think about moving en masse into the water. After about 10 minutes the exodus begins. The four youngest tend to be reluctant to leave since they get the most pampering and feeding, and they know that if they stay behind every visitor who comes into their enclosure will buy some bamboo or at least one container of ‘Capybara’ pellets to feed them.
最大限に音を上げてください Please turn sound up to maximum
3. The sound a capybara mother makes as her babies suckle is truly magical. She goes into a trancelike state, her eyes glaze over and she starts to “sing”. She relaxes and seems to be very happy. Based on my observations it seems to me the sensation of the babies suckling at her teats maybe a very pleasurable one for a mother capybara.
4. This is the joyful sound of capybaras romancing: Female capybaras rub and nibble the male capybara and vocalise:
5 At the start of this video Kaede, a female capybara, emits a series of calls. Kaede frequently escapes from the enclosure, but unlike the other capybaras who like to escape, she doesn’t always go to the lush green grass near the enclosure. She often goes to visit Ran, a male capybara all alone in a tiny pen nearby. She sits against the wall of his pen and he comes over to be as close to her as possible on the other side of the wall. They cannot see each other because of the solid wall. Kaede is low down in the female hierarchy so perhaps she sees her chances of mating with the very desirable Yasushi as slender and is setting her sights on Ran instead.
The capybaras sitting by the gate in the video are all hoping to escape. It tends to be the same capybaras all the time who like to escape. Yasushi is the magnificent long-haired male in this video, showing an interest in some of the females; you will notice that the females are also showing an interest in Yasushi by sniffing his rear end and his testicles. He is always the centre of attention for the female capybaras at Nagasaki Bio Park.
“ビデオの始まりはカエデから（2008年9月10日に生まれた雌のカピバラ）は一連の囁きを発します。私は彼女が何を言ったのか、囁いたのか、知っていいればと思います。カエデは、一番の脱出の名人。（カピバラのエリアから）しかし、逃げるのを好む他のカピバラとは異なり、彼女は構内の近くの青々とした緑の芝生に必ずしも行きません。 彼女はランを訪ねにしばしば行きます。そして、オスのカピバラの近くで小さな囲いの中で一人きりで居ます。彼女はオスのカピバラの反対側に座ります。そしてオスは、出来るだけ親しくしようと近寄ってきます。カエデは、女性のカピバラ階級の中では下位にいます。おそらく彼女はヤスシと結婚する可能性を感じいますが、、ランにも興味を持たせるようにしています。ランはたぶん生物学的にみると、将来パークのカピバラのボスになる存在でしょう。 ビデオの中で門のそばに座っているカピバラのすべては、逃げることを望んでいます。 誰が逃げるのが好きかは、常に同じカピバラである傾向があります。 ヤスシはこのビデオの中の素晴らしい長髪のカピバラです。そして、女性の何人かに対する関心を示します。あなたは、女性が彼の後部と彼のピンク色の大事なところ（男性自身）のにおいを嗅ぐことによってヤスシに対する関心も示していると気がつきます。 彼は、常に長崎バイオパークの雌のカピバラの注目の的です
6. I believe this unusual sounding capybara vocalisation is sometimes a sign of frustration. This vocalisation is usually made by very high ranking females and breeding males. Donguri has made this call when she wanted to visit the male capybara, Toku, but he is in a separate enclosure and she cannot be with him. Hinase and Momiji, number 1 and number 2 in the Bio Park hierarchy, frequently call each other to come to them. In summer, they often do this at around 1 pm to play in the pond or to go to visit the breeding male.
On the occasion shown in this video Donguri has already made this strange vocalisation several times. It is barely audible the second time (after about 28 seconds). She is calling to Momiji who is in a separate enclosure with her three babies. She is Momiji’s mother. In the wild Donguri would have access to all the capybaras in the herd including her grandchildren and great grandchild, so it must be very upsetting and frustrating for her that she cannot get to them. She also got very upset when a film crew entered Momiji’s enclosure and Momiji became very stressed. Donguri made the same call when she hurried over to Toku’s enclosure. She had been rubbing her morillo and marking and urinating in Toku’s presence so she may be coming into oestrus.
This is a very interesting sounding call. I have never seen reference to it in research papers on capybara vocalisations.
Donguri, leader of the female herd of capybaras at Nagasaki Bio Park, wants to visit the male capybara, Toku who is kept on his own separate enclosure. I love the soft, sweet, gentle look in Donguri’s eye as she thinks about Toku and calls to him. She is very frustrated that she cannot be with him.
7. The Bark: This is the sound a capybara makes when he or she barks. Capybaras bark when they want to protest. This bark has a number of different meanings. It can be a warning, either of danger or that the capybara who is barking is not happy about something. In the wild a male capybara will bark to warn another male capybara to keep off his territory. In the wild capybaras will also bark when they perceive danger. This might be a predator such as a jaguar or caiman. They will also bark at other capybaras in the herd if they are upset, frustrated or annoyed with that capybara. Momiji (a mother capybara at Nagasaki Bio Park) would bark in frustration at her baby Aoba’s frequent demands for milk, Aoba was an exceptionally greedy baby capybara and Momiji is an excellent mother so she always gave in to Aoba’s demands, unlike Maple who often refused milk to her babies, Cookie and Butter.
The bark is also used as an alert call; for example at Nagasaki Bio Park, Donguri, the number one capybara in the hierarchy, may bark when she hears that breakfast is about to be served. On one occasion when a serious fight broke out between the two babies, Aoba and Cookie, Donguri jumped up and barked before rushing over to intervene and break up the fight. When capybaras are fighting over the food troughs there may be barks of protest and warning. In the wild the main role for the subordinate male capybaras is to act as lookout, and make warning calls. These subordinate male capybaras stay on the periphery of the herd.
8. Capybara Alarm Calls “Danger Humans” カピバラアラームが呼び出し「危険の人間」
Most afternoons at about 4 PM Goemon, a 4-year-old male capybara who was born at Nagasaki Bio Park and is in a separate enclosure to keep him apart from the females, makes the most compelling, frantic calls. These vocalisations include a very shrill component, sometimes followed by a sound that reminds me of the call of the kookaburra. It is fantastic, a great privilege, to be in his presence when he is making these calls; although the keeper said he is just demanding his dinner! (see video below).
Goemon is a very macho male with a huge, glossy morillo. Toku, the breeding male who is not related to the Bio Park herd, is by contrast a much calmer male, highly intelligent and with a soft, gentle look in his eye. Every day if there are no females visiting Goemon he starts “strutting his stuff” – vocalising, doing some eye-catching behaviour such as aggressively playing with a bamboo frond, doing a very stylised version of “the walk” rubbing his anal glands. The call attracts the attention of the females some of whom will always go to visit him. Toku never goes in for such aggressively masculine behaviour. His vocalisations are gentler. He seems just as popular with the females.
Goemon’s mother was Aki, Donguri’s aggressive sister who was number 1 in the female Bio Park hierarchy in 2012 when I first visited, and his father was Yasushi. Zabon, who still lives with the herd at the Biopark, is his sister. Syu, another male capybara whose mother and father were also Aki and Yasushi, but who was very gentle and affectionate and a great favourite of Donguri, also used to make a similar, but less frantic, call at about the same time each afternoon when he was a-year-old. Syu was 10 months younger than Goemon.
In the video below, Syu repeatedly makes this alarm call (whistle) alerting the rest of the herd. Syu is the subordinate male in the herd at Nagasaki Bio Park. He was the most vocal of the capybaras (other than the babies) and frequently made this call at about 3:30 PM in the afternoon. Donguri, the leader of the herd, seems quite concerned. When a capybara is anxious he or she will repeatedly make a shrill warning call, which sounds like a whistle. Baby capybaras make this call quite frequently when they lose contact with their mothers.
9. Tooth Chattering 歯のチャタリング
Tooth chattering is only used in an aggressive context, such as fights, for example between animals from different herds, or between animals who do not like each other. Tooth chattering often occurs when one capybara challenges a more senior capybara in the hopes of moving up the hierarchy. Tooth chattering also occurs during feeding disputes when capybaras are competing for food. During aggressive/agonistic encounters capybaras make this non-vocal sound by clicking their upper teeth against the lower teeth. It is a warning to the other capybara to stop being aggressive in the hopes of avoiding a fight. Usually the subordinate capybara will assume a subordinate posture and move away. Tooth chattering is sometimes followed by fighting and bites.
In the video below; Donut, the highest ranking (number three in the hierarchy) neutered male in the herd at Nagasaki Bio Park is exhibiting aggression to Ryoko who has been separated from the herd for her own protection, following a C-section which left her very weak and she was then attacked by some other herd members. Ryoko was not at all upset by Donut’s behaviour; his behaviour and engagement with her relieved the boredom and stress of being separated from the herd. In fact she often deliberately attracted his attention in the hopes that he would come over, by jumping in or out of her little pond with a loud splash, running or doing some activity that would attract his attention. Ryoko is one of the most tough-minded capybaras I have ever met but it is always undesirable to separate a capybara from the herd and more effort could have been made to reunite Ryoko once she had gained her strength.
In the last two videos Maple is exhibiting aggression to Momiji. Momiji was separated from the herd for 12 weeks before and after she gave birth to Choco and Donut. Separating a capybara from the herd is very dangerous for that capybara and these days the Biopark only separates pregnant capybaras at night prior to giving birth and for about one week after giving birth. Maple continually tried to attack Momiji when she rejoined the herd, possibly for her place in the hierarchy. This was in 2013 but by 2016 Momiji had become the second highest ranking capybara in the herd (Hinase was number one) and Maple was not popular with the senior capybaras in the herd, particularly Hinase and Momiji who frequently intimidated her, so in a sense Momiji got her revenge.
You can hear and see tooth chattering just after 1 minute and 8 seconds and again for longer at about 1 minute and 32 seconds. Yuzu is doing the tooth chattering. She has been put in a separate enclosure because six of the capybaras in the main herd attacked her. I was told she doesn’t defend herself which is why these capybaras pick on her, but I don’t know if that is accurate.
Capybaras exhibit complex social behaviour, they are very territorial and their social dominance hierarchy is notable. The herd is very cohesive and does not tolerate individuals from other social groups. Subordinate males play an important role as lookouts for capybara intruders from other herds and potential dangers such as predators.
This is a Summary of the Research on Capybara Vocalisations:
Capybaras are a very vocal species and vocal communication is very important to them in terms of regulating social encounters and alerting other members of their herd to what is happening in their environment such as the presence of predators or babies becoming isolated from the herd.
Syu makes repeated alarm calls. シュー繰り返しアラーム呼び出しを
The capybara’s vocal repertoire comprises seven call types: Whistle, Cry, Whine, Squeal, Bark, Click and Tooth chattering. The functions of these calls fall into four categories based on the behavioural context in which they are emitted: Contact calls, Alarm calls, Distress calls and Agonistic calls (i.e. agonistic means unfriendly encounters). There may be more vocalisations based on my observations.
The categorisation of capybaras is as follows: Adults are those capybaras weighing 40 kg or more, Sub-adults weigh between 20 and 40 kg, and Juveniles weigh up to 20 kg.
Capybaras make contact calls, most usually click calls, more frequently than any other type of call. Contact calls are used to promote cohesion among individuals that live in social groups. The whistle and whine were the least frequent type of call.
The click calls are significantly different for each herd of capybaras indicating that these calls are used to recognise members of the same group and reflect the territorial nature of capybaras. These click calls indicate learned behaviour. The differences were in terms of the length of the click calls, the minimum and maximum frequencies and the dominant frequency.
There are differences in the calls made; these differences are based on age and social group. The whistle call was emitted mostly by juveniles. Researchers in South America did not observe any juveniles make the bark call. However, at Nagasaki Bio Park I saw a young pup who was about two weeks old bark on several occasions. I also saw a one-year-old male capybara bark frequently. These capybaras were siblings from different litters with an age difference of one year and four months. The agonistic (i.e. unfriendly) tooth chattering was only used by adults.
Syu makes Alarm Call 当確 アラームコールを行います
Alarm calls and Distress calls: in this category come Isolation calls indicating social separation which are emitted by animals isolated from the herd and who have lost visual contact with other members of the herd often during foraging. In this situation the capybara becomes distressed. Babies, known as juveniles, emit a call known as a whistle. This is often used by a baby to attract the attention of its mother. Female adults also sometimes use this whistle call when experiencing separation or calling to another capybara herd member who has been separated in a different enclosure. The Cry call was emitted by all 3 age groups, (adult, sub-adult and juvenile) and occurred when an individual became lost from the herd during travelling. The capybara would begin to move while emitting a sequence of cries. Babies also emit this call when competing for food.
When Aoba was injured she went into hiding in the pond under the boardwalk at Nagasaki Bio Park. When she still had not appeared the next morning the keepers became anxious and called her to come out with no response. Aoba’s mother, Momiji, understanding the situation then began calling frantically to her five-year-old daughter. About 10 minutes later Aoba swam out. I found this so interesting; it showed how strong the relationship between mother and daughter capybara was and was an exceptional mother Momiji was. You can see this in part of the video below:
The whine call was emitted by all age groups during feeding behaviour and when trying to grab food from another capybara. This call was also used when the animals were waiting for food from a caretaker, whether or not the caretaker was within sight. The capybara whines in the expectation of receiving food.
Both the whine and the click have been observed while the capybaras are travelling. The click call is probably used to maintain contact during foraging or locomotion and the whine is to request food.
The Click call: this call, emitted by all age groups, is a primary means of communication between members of the herd. It is a contact call to keep members of the herd together and is frequently heard when the herd gathers to forage or move as a group, very often in single file. It is also used as a greeting during affiliative (i.e. friendly) interactions between two capybaras, or when a capybara joins a group of capybaras in his herd. These click calls can be heard at night when capybaras are foraging as a way of keeping close together and maintaining contact in the dark. The structural characteristics of this call are: short duration, low frequencies and low auditory range. This suggests that the call is used over short distances and designed not to be heard by predators. It is often used in situations where members of the herd may not be able to see each other either because of low light conditions or when resting hidden in vegetation.
The click call is also emitted when a capybara comes close to a human observer or caretaker. I personally have heard this call when a capybara decides to do something pleasant such as join, in this case, me; I could hear the sound getting louder and louder as the capybara approached and then snuggled down beside me. I would therefore describe this click call as an indicator of pleasure or enjoyment.
The click call, sounding very slightly different and louderh, is also used during agonistic (i.e. unfriendly) encounters such as feeding disputes between adults. In these instances the click calls may be designed to appease or to decrease the likelihood of aggressive encounters during a conflict. In agonistic encounters the phrases were frequently comprised of only two notes. Clicks calls are often punctuated by cries.
Syu and baby Choco have been making repeated alarm calls.
The Bark is an alarm or alert call and is also given as a warning that the capybara is not happy about something and may be considering an attack. I.e. it has a double function as an alarm/alert call to other capybaras and as a warning threat often to predators. Juveniles in South America have not been observed using this vocalisation according to the research papers I have read. However, as mentioned above, I personally have witnessed two-week old juvenile capybaras barking and a one-year-old male capybara who also barks. A capybara may bark when a human being appears or an unfamiliar noise occurs. During this call the capybara adopts an alert posture, characterised by the elevation of head and ears and sometimes by pilo–erection on their head and neck only. After a period of freezing the capybaras may resume their activity, or flee if there is a predator or other threat present. Some research has suggested “Barking is a signal associated with mobbing behaviour” but this would need to be confirmed.
(The intensity and frequency variations in alarm calls might provide important clues about the animals environment, such as the predator type or the place where it comes from. This has been observed in other species. More research needs to be done on this.)
Squeal, emitted by all age groups when a capybara was restrained (during medical procedures etc). The squeal indicates pain or distress, even injury, and may also indicate fear and may act as a warning to other herd members of danger such as the presence of a predator. I have also heard it used by babies during fights when they are bitten.
Tooth chattering is a non-vocal emission caused by the capybara clicking its upper teeth against its lower teeth. Tooth chattering only occurs during agonistic encounters such as fights, feeding disputes when capybaras are competing for food, or between animals from different herds, or animals who do not like each other. It often starts just before a conflict/fight/attack. It serves as a warning to deter another capybara in the hopes of avoiding a fight. Usually the subordinate capybara will assume a subordinate posture and move away, thus avoiding conflict. Tooth chattering is sometimes followed by bites. The length of tooth chattering can go on for 64 “notes”.
As capybaras are very territorial it makes sense that there are structural vocal differences between different herds. In some species the structural differences may be associated with specific characteristics of each different conspecific (i.e. members of the same species) group such as the size of the herd. With the exception of the breeding males members of a capybara herd are all related so the signals are indications of kinship and a way for members of the herd to recognise and identify each other. Therefore these vocal differences may be associated with vocal learning or cultural transmission.