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Agoutis (family Dasyproctidae) or Agutis are a family of South American rodents. They are related to guinea pigs and look quite similar, but their legs are elongated. There are five front and three hind toes (the first toe very minute). The tail is very short or non-existent. The molar teeth have cylindrical crowns, with several islands and a single lateral fold of enamel.

There are three genera in this family:

  1. Dasyprocta (common agoutis)
  2. Myoprocta (acouchis)
  3. Agouti (pacas[?])

The paca genus is sometimes placed in an own family Agoutidae. Note that the animals commonly known as agoutis are not the same as those with the scientifical name Agouti (the pacas). Since this is perhaps unfortunate, some authors refer to the pacas as the genus Cuniculus.

The common agoutis

The common agoutis of the genus Dasyprocta may grow up to 60 cm in length and 4 kg in weight. Most species have a brown back and a whitish or buffy belly; the fur may have a glossy appearance and then glimmers in an orane colour. They are active at day. In the wild they are shy animals and flee from men. But in captivity they may become trusting.

Public domain picture from Webster's Dictionary, 1911 full size image (http://www.wikipedia.com/images/uploads/agouti.png)

When feeding, agoutis sit on their hind legs and hold the food between their forepaws. They feed on fruits and other parts of plants. Sometimes they may become harmful to plantations of sugarcane and bananas. The habitat includes rainforests, savannas and nowadays cultivated fields, depending on the species. They conceal themselves during the night in hollow tree-trunks, or in burrows among roots. Active and graceful in their movements, their pace is either a kind of trot or a series of springs following one another so rapidly as to look like a gallop. They take readily to water, in which they swim well.

Agoutis give birth to two to four youngs. They may become twenty years old - that is a remarkably high age for a rodent.

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