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Cavies and Maras: Caviidae

Mara (dolichotis Patagonum): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: Maras, also called Patagonian maras or Patagonian hares, have a head and body length of 27.6 to 30 inches (69 to 75 centimeters) and a tail length of 1.6 to 2 inches (4 to 5 centimeters). They weigh form 17.6 to 35.2 pounds (8 to 16 kilograms). Their body shape looks like that of a long-legged rodent. The hind legs are slightly larger than the front legs, making them fast runners. The front feet have four toes and the back feet three toes with sharp claws. The fur of maras is grayish brown on the upper body and cream or white on the lower body. The rump has a large white patch of fur.

Geographic range: Maras are found in central and southern Argentina.

Maras are generally social, living in pairs or groups. Here a mother is shown with her offspring. (Ernest A. James/Bruce Coleman Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

Habitat: Maras prefer milder foothill regions where there is coarse grass and scattered shrubs. They also are found in forested canyons and open grasslands.

Diet: Maras are herbivores. Their diet includes a variety of vegetation, such as leaves, grass, herbs, fruits, cactus, and seeds. In captivity, they eat primarily hay, leaves, vegetables, and oats.

Behavior and reproduction: Maras are diurnal and they live in groups of up to forty. They use a variety of movements, including walking, hopping like a rabbit, galloping like a horse, and stotting, which is bouncing on all four legs at once. They are very fast runners, capable of reaching 27.9 miles per hour (45 kilometers per hour). They make several vocal sounds, including a "wheet" when they want contact with another mara, and a grunt they use to threaten others. Maras are monogamous, meaning they have a sexual relationship with only one mate, for several years. Females give birth to three or four litters a year, each consisting of one to three offspring. Females reach sexual maturity at eight months. Gestation is 93 to 100 days. The average lifespan of the Pantagonian mara is five to seven years in the wild and up to ten years in captivity.

Maras and people: Maras are hunted in the wild for food and their skin. They are also tamed and used as pets.

Conservation status: Maras are listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN. Their numbers appear to be declining in the wild, due primarily to destruction of their habitat by humans. ∎



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Web sites:

"Dolichotis patagonum." Animal Diversity Web. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Dolichotis_patagonum.html (accessed on May 4, 2004)

"Family Caviidae." Animal Diversity Web. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Caviidae.html (accessed on May 4, 2004)

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsCavies and Maras: Caviidae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Cavies, Maras And People, Rock Cavy (kerodon Rupestris): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, CONSERVATION STATUS