Pets & Animals

Woman keeps world’s largest rodent as a pet

Caplin Rous relishes snuggling in bed, going to the pet store with his owner and doing tricks like sitting and shaking for treats.

He might sound like your typical dog, but guess again. He's actually a capybara, otherwise known as the largest rodent species on earth.

"People hear the word rodent and they think it's some kind of a dirty word," Caplin's owner, Melanie Typaldos, tells PEOPLEPets.com. "But many of them are very smart, clean, loving animals."

Caplin Rous, (his second name is an acronym for "rodent of unusual size," a reference from the movie "The Princess Bride") is all those things — although Typaldos warns that she wouldn't recommend him as a pet for just anyone.

Although he's extremely loyal and a perfect gentleman in public, he can be territorial at home, sometimes trying to bite visitors he doesn't like. He also requires a very large grazing area because he munches on grass most of the day and the semi-aquatic animal requires daily dips in a pool or other body of water.

Fortunately, Typaldos and her husband provide the perfect living conditions for the 100-pound rodent. They live in rural Buda, Texas, with acres of open space filled with pesticide-free grass, as well as a pool outside and an oversized tub inside to satisfy his swimming needs. Typaldos says Caplin springs to life in the water, playfully dunking his toys or sticking his head through his favorite inner tube (specially stuffed with aqua noodles so he doesn't puncture it with his sharp teeth.)

When he's not swimming or eating, Caplin is typically following his master around and softly makes a sound akin to an "eep" whenever they are separated.

"He's very needy but I love him to death," says Typaldos. "He's very affectionate. He loves to lick my face and forehead and just follow me around everywhere."

Typaldos credits her adult daughter, Coral, with helping her appreciate these oversized creatures while on a trip to Venezuela several years back. When they returned home, Coral begged her mom to get a capybara on her behalf, since she lived in an apartment and traveled a lot and couldn't care for one herself. Typaldos found Caplin through a Texas breeder two and a half years ago when he was just 11 days old. Once at her home, she worked with him consistently for three months to get him accustomed to domesticated life. (And yes, Caplin is housebroken, and does his business in an oversized water bowl in the family bathroom.)

Today, with Typaldos' help, Caplin has become an ambassador for the species. She often takes him into local schools for wildlife talks, and loves taking him out in public to pet-friendly places, like outdoor eateries or even independent bookstores. Unsurprisingly, Caplin draws a crowd wherever he goes.

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    Pet dog? Cat? Maybe a goldfish? Not for naturalist Casey Anderson, who adopted a grizzly bear cub seven years ago after the furry one-month-old was found orphaned in an overpopulated wildlife park. Anderson named his new pet Brutus, and the two have been inseparable ever since — together, they've set out on a yearlong mission to chronicle the lives of Yellowstone's vulnerable grizzly bears. The pair star in the National Geographic special “Expedition Grizzly featuring Casey Anderson,” airing Sunday, May 3 at p.m. ET/PT.

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    Grizzly bears, generally very dangerous animals, can get huge: They eat up to 35 pounds of food each day and can weigh up to 1,200 pounds.

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    At six months, Brutus quickly became Anderson’s new best friend. The duo enjoy spending time at the Montana Grizzly Encounter, a bear rescue and education facility that Anderson founded in 2004. “Brutus has been a huge part of my life. He’s sort of like — well, he actually was — my best man.”

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    Although Anderson says Brutus is his best pal, he still has control of the animal. Brutus will obey for a tasty treat or affection.

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    Nicknamed the "animal magnet" as a child, Anderson has always taken a keen interest in the animal kingdom – but he has a special spot for his bear buddies. “From my very first encounter, I’ve been fascinated by this amazing animal. The more I learned, the more I wanted to share their story.”

    © Grizzly Creek Films / © Grizzly Creek Films
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    To research Yellowstone’s vulnerable bear population, Casey leaves Brutus at home and ventures deep into the park’s grizzly country. "This insight that [Brutus] allowed me to see in him, I’ve learned integral levels of body language that I only could learn by living with him,” said the grizzly expert. “It has helped me out there in the field.”

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    Anderson has dedicated himself to wildlife preservation and lived among bears in extreme conditions, observing their behavior and even tasting some of their favorite foods.

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    Brutus joins in for the Anderson family Thanksgiving dinner.

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    A man and his bear: The pair relax with a cold beer in a hot tub.

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    Just like his human friends, Brutus loves to take a dip in the pool . "He digs, swims, wrestles with other bears, he’s a bear," said Anderson.

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    Brutus isn’t one to shy away from humans — or attention. The grizzly performer works as an assistant to teach park visitors about grizzly anatomy and conservation — and stars in educational videos, feature films and television shows.

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    Brutus even acted as best man during Anderson’s wedding to actress Missy Pyle (of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”) in a ceremony last year.

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"Mostly people are just stunned and amazed," Typaldos reports. "People literally stop their cars in the street and want to take a picture with him ... When we're in public, he will tolerate anything. Sometimes kids will surround him to the point that he can hardly move and he's completely calm."

Typaldos is also dedicated to educating the world at large about capybaras since she discovered there was little online information about keeping one as a pet. Today, she manages Caplin's Facebook account, Twitter account (@CaplinRous) and his blog, gianthamster.com.

As a full time software engineer, Typaldos admits it's a lot of work caring for Caplin and keeping up with all his online endeavors, but it is a true labor of love.

"He's so smart and I absolutely just love him," she says. "Being with him is just a lot of fun."

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