Why are capybaras systematically taking over social media?

Why are capybaras all the rage online?
Why are capybaras all the rage online? Copyright capybara.affirmations (Instagram) - Stock
Copyright capybara.affirmations (Instagram) - Stock
By David Mouriquand
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The capybara has become something of a viral sensation, with a deluge of photos, videos and memes online racking up millions of views. Here's why.


Capybaras are all the rage.


Capybaras. They are the world’s largest rodents which can measure up to 134cm in length and weight up to 60+kg. Native to South America, these semi-aquatic and rather social herbivores are essentially giant guinea pigs that – fun fact – often feast on their own faeces. Plus, their name is really fun to pronounce.

Try it – we’ll wait.

Now you’re delighted, prepare to be enlightened, as you might be interested to know that their common name is derived from the Tupi kaá, meaning leaf, píi, (slender) and ú (eat). So, animal that eats slender leaves. Or grass eater if you want to be more prosaic about it.

The capybara has become something of a viral sensation, with a deluge of photos, videos and memes online racking up millions of views – especially on TikTok and Instagram.

They've recently even been blessed with their very own Barbie poster

Capybarbie. What’s not to love?

But why are these internet sensations having such a moment?

Well, the trend recently went stratospheric when a song by a Russian artist - Сто-Личный Она-Нас (Sto-Lichnayii Ona-Nas) - went viral on TikTok. Audaciously titled ‘Capybara’ and featuring the lyrics “Ca-py-bara capybara capybara capybara capybara capybara” (where do they get their inspiration?), this earworm blew up.

You can listen below – at your peril, mind you, as it’s got 'Baby Shark' levels of sticking power.

Call it a capynaissance.

The thing is with online trends is that they have a short shelf life, especially on TikTok, which seems to latch onto one particular trope, go from zero (or gently simmering) interest to “Oh my god, let’s make life all about this”, and then back down again in a matter of days. Weeks at best. Call it a pretty accurate encapsulation of modern attention spans.

Still, the capybara craze seems to be pretty Teflon to the fast trend cycle and its growing virality doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon.

The animals were already collectively admired in Japan for years, due to the cartoon capybara Kapibarasan, which was launched in the early 2000s by toymaker Bandai. 

The cartoon capybara KapibarasanBandai

In 2010, a capybara named Caplin Rous became a YouTube sensation and fast-forward eight years, and Katsuhito Watanabe shared videos of the animals taking yuzu baths, something which propelled the animal to further stardom.

The perennially chilled out capybara gave way to memes that became all the rage, promoting tolerance and a general aura of affability.

Then came the viral ‘OK I pull up’ video, which further delighted everyone (despite the probable stress situation it must have inflicted on that poor scamp), with one comment on the original YouTube video prognosticating: “This is the video that started everything. This is a piece of history.”


As is usually the case online, certain trends can be re-appropriated, and the capybara even became a symbol of anti-capitalism in Buenos Aires. Indeed, in 2021, capybaras ate all the grass in a gated community in Argentina which was built on what was originally the capybara’s wetland habitat. Cue: Comrade Capybara. 

So, while the recent surge in popularity has a lot to do with the aforementioned song and how people are using the audio in increasingly creative videos, the explanation behind the animal’s ever-growing fanbase boils down to this: they’re cute as buttons and somehow epitomize every yearning we have for a more chilled lifestyle in an era of doomscrolling.

Instead of getting bogged down with conflict, political instability, recessions, hustle culture and the no-longer-looming-but-very-scarily-actual threat of climate change, people prefer to seek out any source of comfort or potential serenity in chaotic times. And it’s landed on the meditative and wholesome faces of the capybara, through pages like Capybara.affirmations

Maybe that YouTube user was right. Maybe this is a piece of history that will bring back our attention spans, urge us to stand and stare, to quote William Henry Davies, and collectively usher us towards a materialized utopian Shangri-La where humanity no longer forgets to be kind to each other. All in the image of our rodent spiritual guides.

Or we’ll just take more baths and move on to the next trend once this one is exhausted. Maybe pudus? They’re the world’s smallest deer and they’re hella cute.

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