The Patagonian Mara

October 20th, 2009 Posted in fauna


mara on the run

Written by Shanie

An impressive little mammal, the Patagonian Mara (Family Caviidae) is quick on its feet, nicknamed the Patgonian Hare or Patagonian Cavy, and at 75 centimeters (29 inches) and 16 kilograms (35 pounds) is the fourth largest rodent on the planet (after capybaras, beavers and porcupines).

The brown-bodied, long-legged Mara is a cross between a diapered baby kangaroo, a small dear and an Argentine liebre. A descendant of the guinea pig, these cute little guys are curious if raised around humans, although they are known to switch to nocturnal living to escape being pestered.

Found mainly in Patagonia, but in other areas around southern South America as well, the Mara enjoys an open landscape and overtaking the underground homes of the burrowing owl. They are well adapted for the vast expanse of Patagonia and the Pampa with the ability to reach speeds of 30 kilometers an hour (18 miles an hour). With four-digit hands and three-toed feet, their  sharp claws are also perfect for enjoying various grasses.

Known to mate for life, they have three to four litters per  year, with one to three surviving young. The babies, which begin the grassland lifestyle of forging for food within 24 hours of birth, are born into a cooperative family environment. With a day care style survival mechanism,  the mara work together in protecting the offspring; one couple is put on watch duty and upon signs of danger signal the young to hide in the forged homes of the burrowing owl while the adults act as a decoy, running in various directions.

Quite the delight to see in person, the mara is one of those seldom-seen, cute animals that puts a smile on your face when witnessing them in their natural environment. With various ways of movement, they are known to walk with almost a saunter to their gate, hop like a rabbit, gallop like a miniature horse,  or to bounce like Tigger. In fact, the mara has been known to reach heights of almost two meters (6 feet) in their leap.

Population numbers are, unfortunately, declining, so while traveling through Patagonia be sure to take your time and keep your eyes open. You just might see a mara leaping higher than the car you are driving.

  1. 9 Responses to “The Patagonian Mara”

  2. By Ray on Sep 26, 2010

    Thank you for having so much info about this Cavy creature.

  3. By Patagonia on Sep 26, 2010

    De nada Ray.

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