Goatview Farm - The Saint Report www.goatview.com

January 21
Texas Capybara Rescue


It's really hard to believe that there are still search strings that come up with no result at all. "Capybara rescue" is one of those result-free strings. Or was. There is obviously a big hole in the animal rescue business and I intend to fill it, so now if anyone has a capybara that needs rescuing he or she can call me and I'll rescue it.

I don't think I will do anything more than advertise this service for the time being and then, when I do get my first capybara, I will make a capy pen complete with wading pool and heated capy hut. It can live in the kitchen while I build the pen. So there really is a Texas Capybara Rescue and I'm not just writing this to be the only result for a weird search string.

About 30 years ago, I read the greatest little book, Capyboppy, by Bill Peet. It was a book for children about Peet's son's pet capybara and its misadventures. It was very funny, beautifully illustrated, and a lesson in why wild animals don't make good pets, but ever since I read the book, I've wanted a capybara of my own--at least for a little while. And I've learned that if the males are neutered, they are much less likely to attack anyone.

Capybaras (Hydrochaeris hydrochaeris, which means water pig in Latin) are, in case you are unfamiliar with them, the world's largest rodents and look a lot like huge guinea pigs. They seem to lack the guinea pig's willingness to be objects of medical research, however, as a group in Germany discovered:

When we started our capybara colony in Aachen, our only fear was that reproduction of these animals might be the problem. This, we were told, was the case in most zoos. We started our colony with two males from a German zoo and three females were imported from Venezuela. In order to develop a strategy how to mate these allegedly difficult to breed animals, and in order to prevent damage to our costly females, males and females were kept in neighboring rooms in our animal facility for the first night. They were separated from each other by two 6 cm strong wooden doors because unexpectedly the perfect cooperation between Lufthansa and the zoo in Caracas, the females arrived earlier than the steel armored cages ordered. The next morning we found that both doors, including considerable parts of the animal laboratories, were ruined and all three females were pregnant.

Rapid reproduction, in fact, became a problem. Our breeding colony grew more quickly than expected and than we could afford, food-wise and space-wise. This was particulalrly true considering the delicate care for big, fierce tropical animals in the cold and rainy climate of Germany. Moreover the animal handlers had problems with our growing colony so that it was finally housed in a high-fenced garden with lakes. It quickly became an attraction for school classes and tourists. The real experimental problem, however, was caused by the fact that capybaras are extremely powerful, have not been truly domesticated, and they are furious animals which do not even fear the jaguar in their South-American habitat. Nor did they fear us. They can be enormously patient and playful so long as you pet them. But they turned into beasts and flattened an entire laboratory when we simply wanted to have a drop of blood.

A "laboratory animal" that cannot be immobilized without general anesthesia, that required general anesthesia for every simple test or treatment, that removed every implanted catheter within hours, even when implanted on its back, and that responded with abortion or preterm delivery to every second general anesthesia given certainly does not fulfill the expectations of a placentologist. Meanwhile our beautiful colony has become the pride of a small zoo to which we had donated it...

Yay for the capybaras! Did I say that guinea pigs displayed a "willingness" to be objects of experimentation? I should have said that capybaras, at 100-150 pounds, are a lot more successful at fending off unwelcome advances than are their one to two-pound cousins. The researcher who wrote "they turned into beasts and flattened an entire laboratory when we simply wanted to have a drop of blood" seems to want us to believe that guinea pigs, on the other hand, take a seat and roll up their little sleeves. But that's some other essay some other time.

Back to the Texas Capybara Rescue. I'm rethinking the kitchen part.

Here are some more capy facts:

  1. Capybara babies, like guinea pig babies, are born after a relatively long gestation (149-155 days for a capybara, 59-72 days for a guinea pig, 14 days for a mouse!). An average litter is five, but there can be anywhere from one to eight. The babies are born with teeth, hair, and open eyes, and do nurse but also eat grass from the day they are born.

  2. Capybaras have webbed feet and spend a lot of time swimming. With their friends. Capybaras are social and live in family groups. During times of drought, the family groups all gather near water, sometimes in "herds" of over 100 animals.

  3. Capybaras are one of the mainstays of the anaconda, which can often grow to over 500 pounds. If you are watching a television show about anacondas, you will see one being served a fresh capybara on a bed of water hyacinth--it's inevitable. It's "uh oh" time from the second the capybara is on the screen.

  4. Not only anacondas find capys tasty treats; they are also eaten by the native South Americans and there is a movement afoot to put them on some more refined tables since capys can be raised on farms.

To be continued ....

The following "perpetual capybara machine" is an uncredited work on the web:


Saints celebrating feast days today include Peter Damian, Fructuosus (saint to be invoked for lower blood sugar?), Agnes (patron saint of girls, betrothed couples, gardeners, virgins, and is invoked for chastity), Patroclus, Epiphanius of Pavia, Meinrad, Avitus, Inez, and Alban Roe.

Saint Agnes is my favorite for the day. Englebert's Lives of the Saints says it best:

We possess little reliable data on this very celebrated saint. Some place her martyrdom about 254; others under Diocletian, about 304.

Agnes was twelve when she was faced with sacrificing to the gods and renouncing her virginity. Neither threats nor promises could turn her. She was tortured. Those watching her torment wept. She, on the contrary, continued to appear happy. Several young men presented themselves, who wished to marry her. "It is an insult to my heavenly Spouse," she said, "to try to please me. He shall have me for His own, who first chose me. Why, executioner, all this delay? May this body perish rather than delight the eyes of those that I refuse."

According to the Latin tradition, Agnes was beheaded. According to the Greek tradition she was first sent into a house of ill repute, where her virtue was miraculously preserved; then she was thrown on a pyre.

Saint Agnes is often pictured with a lamb because her name is so close to the Latin agnus, which means lamb.

Celebrating birthdays today: Robby Benson (1956, Dallas), Geena Davis (1957, Ware, MA), Placido Domingo (1941, Madrid).

Onward to January 22
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Marilyn Jones 2000-2008