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Wednesday, Dec 6, 2023

The Capybara Craze: Why are they everywhere?

Have you been captivated by the recent influx of videos featuring capybaras and their peculiar habits on your Instagram and TikTok feeds? Some may think the capybara craze is a fad that faded away in middle school, or perhaps you’re unfamiliar with capybaras altogether. Admittedly, they’re not for everyone. But as we know, social media caters to individual preferences. And wow, does Instagram get me. During a stressful week, I find comfort in videos of capybaras lounging in a human-sized bathtub or a baby capybara riding on its mother's back. These rodents, indigenous to South America, have won over many admirers with their endearing (albeit very odd) appearance and peculiar temperaments. You might be thinking, “That’s so strange, weird and annoying of Will Reed to like them so much!” No, I like to think it's not. From balancing oranges on their heads to jumping into lakes in a single file line, capybaras have become an unexpected source of incredible joy for many of us. 

I’m not the only one who thinks this way. Fellow Campus editor Bella Burke said, “I think TikTok gave capybaras a platform to start receiving the love they deserve. They went viral for good reason: They’re awesome.”

Two years ago, Vice reported that “Videos containing the hashtag ‘capybara’ have garnered over 116 million views on TikTok. On Instagram, capybara appreciation accounts — many created within the past year — are rapidly gaining popularity.”

You may be wondering: Why are people so drawn to them? What makes them so viewable? For me, the short answer is this: They’re the cutest things ever. Not only is their physique squishy and adorable, their personalities are — at least from what I’ve gathered from videos and memes — dog-like, personable and playful.

Kate Sadoff, another Campus editor, has a bit of a different relationship with capybaras than Burke. She said to me, “You DM me capybara videos. And, yes, I admittedly enjoy them.” Though she doesn’t stumble upon them by her own grace, Sadoff gets it: They’re the most perfect creature.

Of course, there are those who might argue that the capybara craze is just another example of how easily young people are distracted by trivial trends on social media. But I would argue that it’s squarely these small moments of joy and wonder that make life worth living. Whether we’re watching capybaras leap into water or simply taking a moment to appreciate the beauty of the natural world, these moments both connect us to something bigger, cuter and simpler than ourselves all the while grounding us in the comfort that these little square screens so disturbingly bring us. Big, small, cute and wondrous — capybaras do it all.

I’ll leave you with a reference I would be remiss to omit. As Westley famously said in “The Princess Bride,” “Rodents of Unusual Size? I don't think they exist.” And yet, here we are, captivated by the largest of all the rodents and the bliss they bring us. Perhaps this serves as a reminder that sometimes, the most unexpected things can bring us the greatest happiness, and for me (and now, hopefully for you too), capybaras are that reminder.