Conservation Status: Near Threatened
Other Names: Patagonian Cavy, Patagonian Hare or Dillaby
Weirdest Features: They look a little like a cross between a rabbit, dog and deer but they’re actually rodents! Plus they can run at speeds of up to 35mph!
How They Look
Patagonian Mara’s are the third largest rodents in the world (after capybaras and beavers) – they can grow to be around 45cm tall and 69 – 80 cm long including their tails. Often they weigh around 8-16 kg.
These funny little creatures look a bit like a strange mix between a lot of different animals – in fact, the first time I ever saw one in a zoo I named it a ‘rabbit-dog’ until I could find the sign which told me it’s actual name… Their back legs are really long, longer than their forearms, and resemble kangaroo legs – these are useful for helping them hop, gallop and bounce around. Basically, they can hop like a kangaroo, run like a rabbit, walk like deer or sit like a cat!
Patagonian Mara also have the long sticky up ears similar to a rabbit and compressed, hoof-like feet with 4 digits on the forefeet and 3 on the hind feet. They also have sharp claws to help them dig – this is especially useful for digging burrows for young Patagonian Mara’s to take refuge in.
Their heads have large snouts and big dark eyes, which look a little bit like deer eyes. Their fur is short and mostly brown and grey, except for large patches of white and orange in places like the stomach or under the chin.
The Life of a Patagonian Mara
Patagonian Mara usually live in grassland and bushlands with very little rain around Argentina. However, in recent years they have begun competing with locally introduced herbivores such as sheep and European hare for grazing ground, this has influenced the decreasing numbers of Patagonian Mara found in the wild. As herbivores they primarily feed on grass but they will often eat any vegetation that’s available.
When a Patagonian Mara mates, it mates for life. Because of this they usually travel around in pairs and then gather into larger groups of up to 70. These groups normally find an area with loads of available food which can be around 40 hectares and spend most of their time there.
So Many Babies!
Patagonian Mara mate 2 or 3 times a year and give birth to 1-3 babies at a time. They grow up really quickly and can walk very soon after birth.
Remember when I mentioned Patagonian Mara use their claws to help dig underground dens? These are called crèches and the offspring of up to 15 Mara pairs live in them until they’re old enough to go off and find a mate of their own – this is at around 3 months for females and 6 months for males.
It’s Not All So Easy…
Patagonian Mara don’t have a completely risk-free life, they are preyed upon by cats (including Pumas), foxes and birds of prey! However they do have great eyesight and hearing which helps them stay alert and can run at speeds of up to 29km/h in order to escape.
But it’s not just predators which put Mara at risk, as I mentioned before sheep and European Hares are competing with them for grazing ground. Plus other causes of habitat loss (such as increased space being used for agriculture) and hunting mean that Patagonian Mara numbers are declining at an increasingly fast rate.
Today, Patagonian Mara are Near Threatened and if measures aren’t put into place to protect them we could see them become endangered soon. Luckily, throughout Argentina areas have been set up specifically to protect Mara, however the regulation of these areas is questionable and stricter rules and enforcement are needed.