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While in Guararema, Brazil, just an hour or so from Sao Paulo, we saw three capybara, big as you please, along the river’s edge.

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The first was greeting visitors to Ilha Grande, sitting placidly in the shade, and making little squeaking sounds of pleasure (click on link to see video) as people snapped its picture and resisted the temptation to step closer. I stood with the pups (who initially wanted to run and play with it, but were content to sit and sniff in its direction) for a good half hour, and it moved once, to get back into the shade. So tranquil!

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That evening, as we sat along the river at our posada, we saw a capybara couple lounging on the opposite shore, two enormous mounds lying in the sand. Periodically, one would rise up and look around (imagine a 200-lb meerkat), then settle back into its nap. (You can’t really see them, but they’re on the beach.)

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At one point, just as the sun was setting, they got up and wandered off. We could not longer see them, but we could hear the enormous bark of a watchdog nearby who didn’t appreciate their trespassing on its property.

That night, in the pitch dark, we heard the same dog begin to bark maniacally, right at the water’s edge, interrupting the symphony of strange and unusual bird sounds that filled the night. Then we heard a new sound, capybara barks (click on link to see video), a combination bark, quack, and cough. What a cacophony!

We ran to the window as the apparent fight raged, but could see nothing in the darkness, as there were no lights across the river. Just challenge, and answer. Then we heard a massive splash…and the fight was over.

I watched the river for a while, thinking I’d see a capybara swim by, or perhaps some sign of who had fallen, or been tossed, into the river…but nothing.

Tranquil as they seem, apparently capybara are not always the pushovers I imagine!