Patagonian cavies are a large species of rodent. They can reach 25-35 lbs and up to 2 1/2 feet long. They use their long back legs to run at speeds of up to 35 miles per hour and to jump up to 6 feet.
The Patagonian cavy is native to the arid grasslands of central and southern Argentina. They typically live in pairs and mate for life. During certain seasons they will form large groups of up to 70 animals. They are very social animals and communicate with many different sounds. These sounds are often compared to the sounds that domestic guinea pigs make. The cavies make their homes in burrows or caves. Although they are excellent diggers, they prefer to use burrows that have been abandoned by other animals.
Patagonian cavy pairs will typically breed twice a year, producing litters of 1-3 young. The young cavies are housed in a communal den shared by as many as 15 other cavy pairs. The parents take turns watching over the young. The male stands guard while the female nurses their young. The young are weaned when they are 2-3 months old.
Although found frequently in captivity, Patagonian cavy numbers are decreasing in the wild. This is due mainly to loss of habitat and competition for homes and food with the European hare, which was introduced by humans.
Cavies are popular animals for zoo displays and educational programs as they can be very friendly when they are handled frequently.