Capybara Language

Am I talking in this photo? Probably.

A funny thing happened this week, my owner got an email from a man named Stefanos Kourkoumelis at www.tralala.gr. That is a music site in Greek. Stefanos said he is writing “an article on the strange variety of sounds that the Capybara animal produce.” Well, I’m not sure I produce a strange variety of sounds but I do produce a variety of sounds. That got me thinking that maybe I should explain capybara language to my readers.

Capybara language is beautiful as anyone who has heard it can attest. We are related to guinea pigs and our sounds are similar but different. One difference is that, in general, we are perhaps not quite so loud as guinea pigs. People often ask my owner if I make any sounds when they are standing right next to me and I am eeping my head off. Sometimes this is because they just don’t hear me and sometimes it is because they mistake my sounds for those of a bird.

Another frequent question is, “Is he making that sound?” I think this is because I don’t open my mouth when I talk, no capybaras do. Capybara sounds come from our throat and our gut and, except for the bark, are all made without any movement of our mouths at all. This is nice because it allows us to sing underwater. I wish one of those film crews that works with whales or dolphins would come and record my underwater symphonies. Capybaras are at least as musical as cetaceans.

When capybaras are happy, we make a periodic series of five to seven short, low-tones. This is what my owner calls my Geiger counter sound. Stefanos, who heard it on my videos, said it sounds like a metronome. The lower the tone, the happier I am. It’s a pretty cute sound and my owner always smiles when she hears it.

If I want something, I make a higher pitched sound, more of a typical squeak, that rises at the end. The more upset I am, the higher the pitch and the longer I make each eep. When I’m really upset, for instance when my owner goes out to feed the horses and doesn’t take me, I can make this eep loudly enough to be heard several yards away. But I don’t think anyone who wasn’t familiar with capybaras would even notice it, it is not nearly as loud as a dog’s whine.

I suppose everybody knows about my cute little bark. Rick, my owner’s husband, says it is a cross between a cough and a sneeze. I make that when I am startled or I am in a playful mood. Sometimes I run up and down the hallway, shake my head and bark maybe four or five times in a row. Rick calls this my “bark and run.” But the bark is really used to warn other capybaras of danger and I do it when I am startled or frightened.

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When I am aggressive, I make a clicking noise with my teeth. This really isn’t as good as a dog’s growl or a cat’s hiss because you have to be pretty close to hear it. Apparently humans do not associate this sound with anger because they do not react appropriately. I also huff which is like a forceful sigh.

Speaking of sighing, I do that when I lie down and am ready to sleep. If I don’t sigh, it means I’ll start eeping in a minute or two and no one is going to sleep until I am a little more tired.

My most interesting noise is what my owner calls “thrumming.” It is so low-pitched that humans can hardly hear it. I make that noise when I am afraid and upset. If I make it in the water, you can see tight ripples on the surface and, if your hand is in the water, you can feel the vibration. I make this sound whenever I hear Johnny Cash or Willie Nelson, which, luckily, is not often. This sound would be very difficult to record because it is too low and too soft.

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8 comments to Capybara Language

  • Interesting that clicking teeth means aggression for capybaras. When rabbits are happy, they click their teeth together very rapidly; it’s called “toothpurring” and it sounds a lot like Caplin’s “Geiger counter” noise, only very low. Usually, you only hear it if you’re holding the rabbit on your chest or so its head is near your ear. (Approved 2010/04/25)

  • Ester

    It’s funny how he actually does sound like a guinea pig!
    My guinea pigs do that clicking with their teeth too (and that doesn’t scare me at all either).
    Guinea pigs also make those low sounds when they’re happy. It sounds a bit like ‘mup mup mup’. Always makes me smile too.
    And you’re right that guinea pigs are much louder. Omg, sometimes they are such whiners! Luckily for you Caplin Rous isn’t :).

    I would love to have a capybara. In my country it’s actually forbidden to have one. But I think that’s not a bad decision. I think capybara’s like swimming a lot, so you should at least have a pool, and in my country hardly anyone has one. (Approved 2010/04/25)

  • Dobby

    I have learned to make a funny capybara sound. I try to make a kissing sound when I kiss my owner, like her cockatiel does. At first it scared her because it does sound a lot like a softer version of my aggressive clicking sound. But I only do it when I am kissing her gently with my lips (no teeth!) just like she taught me to do, and she finally figured out that I am mimicking her kissing sound. Do humans really smack their lips when they kiss? (Approved 2010/04/25)

  • Dawn

    Hi Cappy,

    Maybe you can come to our office and give a demonstration on all the sounds you make…

    How adorable!

    We love you!

    Go Cappy!
    (Approved 2010/04/25)

  • Dobby

    I just realized you don’t honk like a goose, either! My owner thinks I am braying like a donkey, but I actually learned it from my friend Norman, the gander who is Assistant Flock Manager here. (I am the REAL manager, of course) If you bark louder and longer, I’m sure you can do it, too. It means “I missed you SO MUCH”! when I do it. I won’t let my owner video it because it is more fun to play the “Freeze in Place” game when she gets her camera out. (Approved 2010/04/25)

  • Claudia Enna

    Caplin! My love! Finally I can write here,as you know,I have not internet at home yet,so I write you by my phone. I really wish I could go in the US and visit you in Buda. For now I have to wait and when I will have internet,see all your videos again and listen to your sweet voice! I am sooo curious to listen to the shades of your sounds! (Approved 2010/04/25)

  • Sophie

    I love u caplin!! I check your blog everyday and have my own toy capybara!! (Approved 2010/04/27)

  • Kat

    i luv u caplin. im serious about adopting. contact me at xxxxxx. Please make sure to tell caplin i luv him. i hope u respond soon about adopting. please email me before calling at twilighteclipse4ever@gmail.com i am not available btween the times of 5:30am to 6:00pm ask for Katherine if you call

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