Patagonian Mara

Patagonian Mara

Patagonian cavy, Patagonian hare

Dolichotis patagonum
Population size
Life Span
7-10 years
Top speed
km/h mph 
kg lbs 
cm inch 

The Patagonian mara (Dolichotis patagonum) is a relatively large rodent found in open and semiopen habitats of South America. A population of this species has also been recorded in the northern United Arab Emirates, possibly as a result of escaped pets or captive animals.


The Patagonian mara resembles a jackrabbit. It has distinctive long ears and long limbs. Its hind limbs are longer and more muscular than its fore limbs and it has a longer radius than humerus. The feet are compressed, making them hoof-like. The fore feet have four digits while the hind feet have three digits. Its tail is short, depressed, and hairless. It has a gray dorsal pelage with a white patch on the rump separated from the dorsal fur by a black area. In addition, the mara has a white underside with a somewhat orange flank and chin.




Biogeographical realms

Patagonian maras are endemic only to Patagonia, Argentina. They live in habitats with shrub cover, but they also inhabit overgrazed and barren soils. In northwestern Argentina, they primarily inhabit lowland habitats such as forest and creosote bush. Maras prefer sandy and low shrub habitats in the Valdes Peninsula. They have adapted well to a cursorial lifestyle on the open plains and steppe.

Patagonian Mara habitat map

Climate zones

Patagonian Mara habitat map
Patagonian Mara
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Habits and Lifestyle

Patagonian maras are diurnal animals. The legs of these rodents are designed for running. Maras may amble, hop in a rabbit-like fashion, gallop, or bounce on all fours. They spend the greater part of the year traveling in male-female pairs and rarely form groups of more than 3 individuals. The daytime hours of these pairs are spent on daily foraging trips. They usually prefer grazing grounds that are rich with vegetation. These animals are also known to gather in settlements - large groups, living in warrens or den systems. Usually, small warrens are used by a single pair, whereas big ones may be used by up to 29 pairs simultaneously. As a result, the population density of this species sharply increases and groups of up to 70 individuals are formed. During the active period of the day, Patagonian maras can often be seen sunbathing. When resting, they base themselves upon their haunches or fold their forelegs under their body like cats.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Patagonian maras are herbivores (graminivores, frugivores). The diet of these rodents consists entirely of plants, mostly - Pappophorum grass. They supplement their diet with a wide variety of cacti, fruits, and herbs.

Mating Habits

90 days
2 pups
75-78 days

These rodents have a well-defined monogamous mating system, where individuals form pairs, remaining together throughout their lives. Meanwhile, males are the ones who maintain the pair bond: they constantly guard their mates, following females wherever they go. Breeding occurs between August and January. The gestation period lasts for 90 days, yielding 2 young per litter. Babies are born near the burrow entrance. Newborn maras are well-developed and their eyes are open. Immediately after birth, the babies are able to move into the burrow that is often shared with several other pairs and their young. The babies live in this burrow, visited and suckled by their mother every day. The nursing period lasts for 75-78 days, after which young maras usually disperse, although some of them may remain with their parents until the following breeding season. The age of reproductive maturity is 6 months old for males and 2.5 months old for females.


Population threats

The overall population of this species is currently facing a serious decline due to hunting, loss of their natural habitat as well as competition with the European hares, sheep, and other non-native herbivores. Some local populations in Buenos Aires Province have gone extinct because of continuous hunting for their skin and habitat clearance, as a result of agricultural development.

Population number

The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the Patagonian maras’ total population. The numbers of this species are decreasing today, and it is currently classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List.

Ecological niche

As grazing herbivores, these rodents have a huge impact on the local ecosystem. They act as seed dispersers of certain plants they consume. In addition, the young of this species are key prey items for a number of predators, including birds, canids, and felids.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • When young maras live in a burrow, the parents regularly visit to feed their offspring. At first, the female usually gives out a shrill call, after which all pups in the burrow come to the surface. Recognizing her babies by smell, she drives away babies of other pairs that try to get to her milk (and sometimes even succeed), taking her young a little bit away from the burrow to suckle them. Meanwhile, the male stands guard in order to turn away other pairs that may try to come up. Due to this communal behavior, pups are protected from predators, since adults are always near.
  • Patagonian maras are the fourth-largest rodent in the world, after the two species each of capybaras and beavers, and the large species of porcupines.
  • Maras are capable of moving around in various ways. Their front legs are shorter than their hind legs. They are known to bounce on all of their 4 legs, making a movement called 'stotting'.
  • These animals use a wide variety of vocalizations as a form of communication. Typical sounds include grunts and screams.
  • When threatened, Patagonian maras are able to take long leaps of up to 6 feet in the air.
  • Patagonian maras are extremely gentle animals that can be kept as pets. Moreover, there have been known cases of pet maras being leashed and potty trained.

Coloring Pages


1. Patagonian Mara Wikipedia article -
2. Patagonia Mara on The IUCN Red List site -

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