These are the third largest rodents – after capybaras and beavers. They live in the Central and South Argentina in open, dry areas filled with grass and bush. They like to live in abandoned holes made by other animals. They are some kind of a cross between a domestic deer (rear), rabbit (body) and a kangaroo (head). These are the guinea pigs´ big cousins. The Patagonian Maras are monogamy animals (partners are inseparable for their entire life).
Other maras, living in the same dwelling (hole) are attached to one another. Male follow the female. Males are usually on guard while the female is eating. Couples sometimes migrate to areas with a rich vegetation – they also move in groups of up to 70 individuals. They are most active during the day and mainly eat grass, herbs, and grain.
They are 75 cm long and they have a small tail – 4 cm long. Their fur goes from grey-brown to reddish. Their underside is white just as their rear (same as with deer). They have thin legs. Their front legs have four fingers, while their back legs only have three. Their claws are very sharp. They can run fast and jump high (up to 6 m) if in danger. Their top speed is 45 km/h. They can run a whole kilometre while maintaining top speed. Their snout is big as are their eyes; however, their ears are small but clearly visible. These animals weigh 8-16 kg.
Mara gives birth 3-4 times a year. They usually give birth to two offspring. They mate during the winter or spring. That is the short period when the male has estrus. Gestation lasts for three months. At birth, the babies weigh 500g. It interesting that all the babies are together – like a day-care centre. This means we can have up to 30 offspring together. At birth, they are well developed and can graze after 24 hours. In this manner (inside other animals’ abandoned dens) the offspring stay for 4 months. During this period the mother takes good care of all the offspring. They become independent after 2-3 months. They reach sexual maturity very fast (females after 3-4months, males at 6 months of age). Maras live 5-7 years, if in captivity, then even up to 10 years.
Maras can be easily domesticated if they are near people from their early days.
Their numbers are drastically decreasing; because of two main reasons: The destruction of their habitat and because of the European hare (Lepus capensis) is inhabiting their habitat. Although these two animals are similar, aren´t related.