Brazilian agoutis, also called red-rumped, orange-rumped, or golden-rumped agoutis, are native to South America. The species ranges from the northern tip of the continent to the Brazilian Amazon and from the western borders of Venezuela and Brazil to the eastern coast. This neotropical rodent is common throughout its range, and researchers have studied agoutis at sites in Venezuela, French Guiana, and the Brazilian Amazon.
Biogeographic Regions: neotropical (Native )
Brazilian agouti females are larger than males, otherwise both sexes have a similar appearance. Weights range between 3 and 5.9 kg, and total length ranges betweem 49 and 64 cm. The fur is a speckled olive brown, sometimes with darker patches on the upper torso (often varying by region), and there is a patch of long orange or red hairs on the rump. Agouti undersides are orange-brown, and have a white stripe going down the middle. Small, round ears and a short peg-like tail are bare. Forefeet have four toes whereas hind feet only have three. Forelegs are shorter than hind legs. Dasyprocta leporina body size and overall shape is similar to black agoutis (Dasyprocta fuliginosa), but Brazilian agoutis are distinguishable by their distinct color pattern.
Range mass: 3.000 to 5.900 kg.
Range length: 49 to 64 cm.
Sexual Dimorphism: female larger
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Average basal metabolic rate: 8.694 W.
Agoutis occupy a wide variety of habitats as long as good cover exists, particularly near old logs, bodies of water, and swamps, and sometimes even live near people in gardens and on farms. However, Dasyprocta leporina appears to prefer forests of all types to human-inhabited areas when available, and their home ranges always contain at least some sheltered area.
Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest ; rainforest ; scrub forest
Other Habitat Features: suburban ; agricultural ; riparian
Habitat and Ecology
The main foods in a Brazilian agouti’s diet are seeds and fruit, but agoutis do consume leaf, animal, and plant parts as well when seeds and fruit are hard to come by. Agoutis bury their food in caches to eat in the event of a food shortage, and play a large role in seed dispersal. When agoutis eat, they rest on their large hind feet and hold food in their forepaws.
Animal Foods: insects
Plant Foods: leaves; roots and tubers; wood, bark, or stems; seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit; nectar; flowers
Foraging Behavior: stores or caches food
Primary Diet: herbivore (Frugivore )
Brazilian agoutis play a critical role in dispersing tree and plant seeds due to their caching behavior. Patchy distributions of certain trees are often the result of agoutis spending extended time in certain parts of their home range. Certain neotropical canopy trees, such as Hymenaea courbaril, depend upon agoutis for seed dispersal and suffer in their absence. Brazilian agoutis help disperse inedible seeds containing quinolizidine alkaloids as well, since they have such a strong drive to collect and cache seeds that they will do so even if they can not consume the seeds themselves.
Brazilian agoutis are also an important link in food webs. As a prey species, availability of agoutis may affect predator populations.
Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds
Brazilian agoutis are always on the lookout for danger, and often scavenge and travel in pairs. Such behavior might increase their ability to detect predators. Animals that prey on agoutis include large mammals such as ocelots (Leopardus pardalis) and humans (Homo sapiens). Ocelots tend to hunt animals on the ground, so terrestrial agoutis are great prey animals for these cats. Even newborn agoutis are equipped with the cordination and strong legs necessary to escape from ocelots. Humans often catch agoutis for meat or pets, but aren't always successful, since agoutis are so fast and wary. Though predation risk is high, agouti populations appear to currently be stable and not overly affected by feline or human predation.
- Ocelots (Leopardus pardalis)
- Humans (Homo sapiens)
Life History and Behavior
Dasyprocta leporina uses grunts, squeals, or hind foot stamping indicate distress or alarm. Since the animals live in small groups to enable them to better spot and respond to predators, any sort of indication of alarm benefits the entire group. Like many prey animals, their eyes are oriented at an angle best able to detect potential predators while they forage. Agoutis have distinct territories, and might use urine or other chemical signals to mark their home range. As in other mammals, it is likely that tactile communication is important between family members, and that some visual communication, such as body postures, is used.
Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Though specific data on D. leporina longevity are unavailable, other members of the genus have lived 15 to 20 years in captivity. Male life expectancy is lower than female life expectancy in the wild, but little is known about the average life expectancy in the wild of either sex. This is due to the difficulty in catching and marking individuals in the field.
Status: captivity: 20 (high) years.
Status: captivity: 17.8 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Brazilian agoutis are monogamous, and often live in pairs or small family groups consisting of parents and their offspring. Agoutis need a large area to court and breed, so they do not reproduce well in captivity. They are fairly social animals, and perhaps stick together for mating and safety purposes. Although data on D. leporina are not available, other species in the family Dasyproctidae mate for life and breed twice annually if enough food is available. It is reasonable to assume that Brazilian agoutis are similar to other Dasyproctids.
Mating System: monogamous
Brazilian agoutis tend to have 1 to 3 offspring at a time after a gestation period of 104 to 120 days. Though data on D. leporina are unavailable, other members of Dasyproctidae have estrus cycles lasting approximately 34 days and wean their offspring around 20 weeks of age.
Breeding interval: The breeding interval for these animals is not known.
Breeding season: The breeding season for D. leporina has not been reported.
Range number of offspring: 1 to 4.
Average number of offspring: 1.400.
Range gestation period: 104 to 120 days.
Average gestation period: 104 days.
Average weaning age: 140 days.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization ; viviparous
Average number of offspring: 1.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
Sex: female: 193 days.
Agoutis often live in small groups consisting of a breeding pair and their offspring, though young are precocial and can forage soon after birth. Juvenile agoutis are born into a world rich with predators, and the ability to run within an hour of birth greatly increases their chance of survival. Members of the family Dayproctidae generally give birth to fewer, larger offspring than do other rodents, and spend a good amount of time and energy raising their young. Juveniles of both sexes might remain with their parents after 20 weeks of age, though males are more likely to disperse than females. The roles of mothers and fathers in parental care have not been documented for these animals.
Parental Investment: precocial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); post-independence association with parents
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Dasyprocta leporina
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 8
Species With Barcodes: 1
Dasyprocta leporina is not listed on the IUCN list of threatened species. Though many of the habitats in which this species lives are slowly being destroyed, they appear to thrive in some human habitats. As long as they have sufficient cover, these animals do well even in disturbed habitats. Brazilian agouti populations currently appear to be stable.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Brazilian agoutis are extremely wary of people and can be difficult to catch for food or to study, but don’t seem to have any negative economic impact on humans. However, agoutis might become a problem if their forest habitats continue to be destroyed and they are forced to feed in human farms and gardens.
Brazilian agoutis are fairly common and are often hunted and eaten. Along with black agoutis (Dasyprocta fuliginosa), Brazilian agoutis are often kept in captivity. However, breeding Brazilian agoutis in human-imposed enclosures is difficult since the animals need a relatively large space to court and breed, and they are very nervous around people.
Positive Impacts: pet trade ; food ; research and education
The Brazilian Agouti is also called the "red-rumped", "orange-rumped", or the "golden-rumped" agouti. It lives in a wide varietiy of habitats with water, dense plant growth, which may include gardens and on crop fields. It is often found in the rainforests, or other forests of Brazil and northward. They usually have territories of about 30000m2 to 85000m2.
Brazilian Agoutis, or Dasyprocta leporina, weigh about 3 to 6 kilograms or 6 ½ pounds to 13 pounds. They are about 19 in to 25 in long. In this species the females are larger than males but otherwise look similar. They are brownish with darker spots on the upper body. The fur becomes more orange as it goes past (going down) the middle area of the animal. The ears are somewhat square in shape. The front feet have 4 toes and the back have 3. They can be distinguished from other agoutis by their distinct coloring.
These animals have no distinct breeding season, and females generally have about 1 to 3 young. The Brazilian Agouti’s gestation period is 104 to 120 days. On average, it takes 20 weeks for the young to be weaned. They live in pairs or family groups of the parents and little ones. They need large areas for food, breeding, and territory. It is hard to keep the animal in captivity for that reason. Most animals in the Dasyproctidae family mate once or twice, and this is presumed to be true for this species as well. This species lives 15-20 yrs in captivity.
- John F. Eisenberg and Kent H. Redford, 2000. Mammals of Neotropics: Ecuador, Bolivia and Brazil.
- Bricklin, R. and P. Myers. 2004. "Dasyprocta leporina" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed December 12, 2006 at