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What does the domestic nutria look like and where the animal lives, breeds and status of the species

What does the domestic nutria look like and where the animal lives, breeds and status of the species


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The water rat, or nutria, is a fur-bearing animal with valuable fur and meat. The animal is found in the wild and attracts hunting enthusiasts for the sake of sports interest. These large rodents live in wetlands and are easy to tame. Standard and colored types of homemade nutria have been selectively bred. The appearance and habits of the animal are associated with a semi-aquatic lifestyle.

What nutria looks like: description

The scientific name for nutria is coipu, or marsh beaver. External characteristics of the animal:

  • large head;
  • small rounded ears;
  • rounded muzzle;
  • long vibrissae;
  • webbing between the toes of the hind paws;
  • hard long fur;
  • flexible scaly tail 45 centimeters long.

The body length of nutria is 60 centimeters. Females have 4-5 pairs of mammary glands on their sides to feed the young in the water. The water rat belongs to the nutria family and the order of rodents. The mouth and nose of the animal are adapted for foraging in the water body. The incisors protrude in front of the upper split lip, so water does not enter the mouth when biting off underwater plants.

Expert opinion

Zarechny Maxim Valerievich

Agronomist with 12 years of experience. Our best summer cottage expert.

The nostrils of the koipu are tightly closed by the obturator muscles. To prevent water from getting into the auditory canal, the auricles of the animal are covered from the inside with a thin down. When swimming underwater, the rodent directs movement with the help of its tail.

The fur of the animal is water-repellent and thicker on the belly, which helps to keep warm. The coat consists of hard, long awns and a soft undercoat. Nutria looks like a cross between a beaver and a rat. Translated from Spanish, the name of the animal means "otter". In addition, the family includes the hutia, a tree rodent from Jamaica, and the zaguti, an animal from the forests of Haiti that looks like a guinea pig.

Why does nutria have orange teeth?

The color of the teeth of the nutria changes as they grow older. In newborn babies, they are white. From the second month of life, the incisors turn yellow. By the sixth month, the teeth of water rats become intensely orange. Koipu have a bright tooth color due to their high iron content. Nutria incisors are speckled with thin iron fibers. Orange teeth indicate that the animal is young and healthy. In sick and old animals, stains appear on the enamel.

How much does the animal weigh

The weight of wild nutria is 5-12 kilograms. Females are lighter than males. Farm pets reach a weight of 16 kilograms, as their diet includes foods that contribute to weight gain.

The weight of the cubs at birth is 150-170 grams, sometimes 200 grams. By the age of one month, koipu gain 800 grams of weight. At three months, nutria weigh up to three kilograms. A maximum of 25 grams is added per day, but after reaching one year of age. In early childhood, cubs gain little weight.

Age in daysWeight in kilograms
FemalesMales
100,30,4
200,50,6
300,70,8
501,11,2
601,41,7
9022,3
1202,53,1
1503,34
18044,7
2104,55,5

The mobility of the animals contributes to the rapid weight gain. Water rats, which regularly exercise in swimming, weigh more than sedentary relatives. The weight of meat after cutting the carcass is 53 percent of the total body weight of live nutria.

Where does it live?

Nutria lives in a swampy area, in the reed thickets of salt lakes. The animal tolerates frosts down to -35 degrees. But the animal is not adapted for life in constant cold. In a rodent, the tail quickly freezes. From frostbite, necrosis and sepsis begins. Koipu are not in the habit of insulating nests and minks, so in cold climates, the cubs die, despite the dense fur. Nutria dwellings are rarely found in the foothills and are generally not found in deciduous forests.

Nutria come from South America. Habitat - Bolivia, southern Brazil, Chile. They tried to acclimatize the animals in Africa. But the water rats lacked moisture on the arid continent. The climate of North America and Europe was best suited to the coyp. Also, the animals took root in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan. The hunters have discovered that the water rats have tasty meat. In order not to fly to the "land of wild monkeys" for a delicacy, the great migration of koipu was organized.

Varieties of nutria

Modern koipu differ in color. Wild nutria has a brown-brown coat. But during the period of domestication, experiments began to breed new species. During the first experiments, the albino nutria appeared. But she was not suitable for breeding and procreation. Later, by crossing individuals of different colors, modern colored species were obtained.

Domestic nutria breeds:

  • beige - popular among breeders due to its high fertility, has a light coat and dark undercoat. The color is closer to sand and cream than brown. But there are also dark specimens with a smoky gray and chestnut shade of undercoat;
  • white - distinguish between Azerbaijani and creamy white Italian varieties. Italian nutria has an expressive look. Snow-white animals are born only to purebred parents. In the Azerbaijani water rat, the coat and undercoat have the same structure, therefore the color is uniformly white. Its meat is superior in taste to rabbit meat;
  • golden - bright color on the back brightens closer to the belly, the coat is shiny. The breed is considered unique due to its pinkish undercoat. In order for most of the cubs to be born golden, purebred females or males are crossed with a representative of the nutria breed of a different color;
  • lemon - the name does not reflect the actual color of the animal. The orange water rat resembles a grapefruit or orange. The breeding was attended by golden, Italian and beige breeds. With purebred and heterogeneous crossbreeding, golden, white and lemon cubs are born;
  • mother-of-pearl - the fur of the animals is colored unevenly, gray with a light tint, with a selection of zones. Mother-of-pearl parents give birth to cubs of the same color, as well as white and beige. A dirty shade is a sign of marriage;
  • snowy - blue-gray nutria can be bred by crossing a light mother-of-pearl female and a golden male. So that more cubs are born in the offspring, snow water rats are crossed with white breeds;
  • black - in young nutria, there is a zonal difference in color. When black water rats are crossed with representatives of their own or another breed, most of the cubs will be black. For the first time, the breeding experiment was a success among Argentine breeders;
  • pastel - water rats of the pastel variety are colored in various shades of brown, are born dark and brighten in adulthood. The breed was obtained after crossing the mother-of-pearl and black varieties;
  • cream - the color combines brown and beige colors, blue-gray legs are distinguished by a pink tint. The fur of creamy nutria becomes valuable when the animals reach one and a half years. At an older age, the coat turns unpleasantly yellow.

A simple and popular standard breed of animals, it is characterized by a combination of all color shades. Its ancestor is the common river nutria, so the main color is brown.

The species diversity of the koipu includes mixed and mutational breeds. A dominant group of animals is also distinguished, whose genes are passed on to offspring. It includes Azerbaijani, golden and black nutria. Separately, a group with recessive signs is distinguished - mother-of-pearl, beige, smoky rocks.

Dangers and enemies

Nutria are hunted by:

  • Fox;
  • wolf;
  • jackal;
  • water snakes;
  • alligator;
  • jaguar;
  • cougar.

The harrier bird attacks the koipu from the air. Hearing is well developed in water rats. They hear the steps of a hunter or a creeping predator long before they appear in the field of vision. At suspicious sounds, the animals quickly run away. But koipu are not capable of running long distances.

If the animal senses danger near the hole, it will have time to hide in the intricate passages. A pond will also be a salvation for a rodent - under water it escapes from pursuers. But far from home, predators easily catch up with the water rat, despite its zigzag strides.

Finding himself alone with the enemy, Koipu enters into battle. The animal's weapon is sharp claws and teeth. With long front incisors, the rodent bites into the throat of a predator twice its size. The frozen body of water turns into a deadly trap for nutria. The rodent does not know how to look for thawed patches and drowns under the ice.

Lifestyle and social behavior

Wild nutria is a nocturnal animal. During the day, the animal hides in a dwelling, and at night it goes out in search of food. Features of life:

  • the rodent swims slowly because of the narrow front and wide back of the body;
  • Koipu can dive to a depth, spend up to ten minutes under water and swim 100 meters during this time. In the blood of the animal, the amount of oxygen-binding substances increases, and a reserve is created, which allows it not to breathe for a long time;
  • hot afternoon - time for nutria to rest in a shady shelter. The optimum ambient temperature for aquatic rats is + 15-20 degrees;
  • if the animals do not bathe in the summer heat, their fur coat loses its shine. But in winter, the absence of water procedures does not affect the condition of the coat;
  • Nutria burrow in high banks and trail in tall grass. The dwelling of a large family turns into a labyrinth of passages;
  • females build nests in the reed for the young;
  • Nutria live in pairs or in a group of up to 12 individuals. A small flock consists of one or more females, a male and cubs;
  • males who have just reached maturity leave the group and settle separately.

Nutria fur is renewed throughout the year. Intense molting begins in spring and slows down in summer. In winter, water rats do not shed. For the first time, koipu renew their fur coat at the age of one and a half months and acquire a hard nap within four months.

Animals are not very talkative. At night, rodents are rarely recognized by a feline-like cry. The voice of the males can be heard during their fighting during the mating season. Also, the animals purr and gurgle when they share food. Water rats are clean animals. Koipu are combed with clawed paws, preceding the meal and completing the bath. Nutria also clean their coats in captivity, so the cells do not emit an unpleasant odor.

Features of nutrition in nature

Nutria is a herbivore. The natural food of the animal is reed and reed stalks, cattail, water walnut and water lily leaves. Rarely, the water rat eats mollusks and leeches. Water rats do not stock up for cold winters. When there is nothing to feed on, the rodents leave their home and go to look for an area with an abundance of food. Animals can do without water if they find a lot of succulent stems. Koipu's cleanliness also manifests itself in food. They rinse the leaves in water and then take a bite.

In the absence of herbaceous plants, rodents switch to leaves, bark and young branches of trees and shrubs. In winter, roots are added to woody food, which animals dig out of the ground. Water rats are considered pests, as they eat up coastal vegetation and dig up the shores of water bodies. Rodents drag the grass from the bottom and pile it at the water's edge. After feeding the koipu, there is often a large amount of waste left. Sometimes the volume of uneaten grass reaches a centner.

The stomach capacity of a young animal is half a kilogram, and an adult's capacity is a kilogram. The intestines of the koipu are not adapted for fast digestion due to the poor microflora. Therefore, digestion takes one to three days.

Reproduction and offspring

In captivity, female nutria bring offspring all year round. The duration of pregnancy is short - 4.5 months. Therefore, a female can become pregnant three times in a year. Non-pregnant koipu are ready to mate once every 25-30 days. The hunting period lasts four days. The most favorable seasons for breeding are spring and summer.

Cubs of nutria are called puppies. There are 4-5 individuals in the offspring. Koipu are born sighted, with hair and teeth. Features of the development of small nutria:

  • 2-3 days after birth, they leave the nest behind the female, learn to swim and gnaw the stems of plants;
  • after 2 weeks, the animals independently obtain vegetable food;
  • up to two months they feed on mother's milk, combining it with adult food;
  • rodents grow slowly, continuing to gain in growth even after the onset of puberty at 5 months;
  • growth finally stops, on average, at 15 months.

Koipu females take care of their offspring on their own. Maternal instinct rarely fails in pets. To return the young mother's interest in the cubs, she is briefly placed next to the male. Nutria live 6-8 years in the wild. On farms, rodents are not kept longer than three years of age due to loss of reproductive capacity.

Population and status of the species

The abundance of wild nutria varied depending on weather conditions. In cold winters, animals died out in Scandinavia and the northern United States. Currently, water rats are not an endangered animal species. But in the process of vital activity, waterworks are damaged by koipu. The problem was faced by countries with a high number of wild animals - the United Kingdom and the United States.

In America, natural disasters have contributed to the growth of the animal population. The farms were destroyed by hurricanes, and the rodents took root in the wild. In Louisiana, two million koipu were a disaster. Taking into account the experience of Western colleagues, New Zealand has banned the import of water rats. The devastating influence of rodents outside their natural range is explained by the fact that they are foreign objects in ecosystems.

Nutria hunting

Illegal hunting significantly reduced the natural population of water rats in the 19th century. The Koipu survived through relocation and artificial breeding. After taming the nutria, they stopped shooting. Hunting fur-bearing animals is allowed in Europe and America.

Koipu is hunted in two ways:

  • with a gun;
  • set traps.

In Russia, the water rat does not occur. An exception is the regions of Transcaucasia, to which the animals were brought at the beginning of the last century.

Koipu is hunted in the same way as beavers and muskrats. First, they look for traces and characteristic paths of animals near water bodies.

How to distinguish a nutria trail from a beaver trail:

  • four fingers leave a finer print;
  • the height of the footprint of the front paws of the water rat is 6 centimeters, the width is 5.5 centimeters;
  • hind paw prints are larger - 11 centimeters high and 8 centimeters wide;
  • on the traces of the hind legs of the nutria, the membranes between the toes are visible;
  • track width - 25 centimeters;
  • stride length - 18-28 centimeters.

When walking, the hind legs of the koipu are located farther from the body than the front ones. Therefore, their tracks seem to run ahead. Most often, water rats are caught with traps. In some areas, the animals are bred for sport hunting. In Germany and the Caucasus, it is necessary to first clarify whether nutria is included in the list of animals allowed for hunting.

The value of meat and fur, the healing properties of fat

Nutria skins are practical for sewing fur products due to the following qualities:

  • waterproofness;
  • shine;
  • ease;
  • ability to retain heat;
  • density.

Koipu fur coats retain their beautiful appearance for a long time. Fur of colored breeds is more expensive than standard fur. The skin of the nutria is dense and does not allow moisture to pass through. The skins of water rats, which have undergone special treatment with the removal of hard awns, are especially appreciated. In quality and beauty, they are comparable to a beaver or mink coat. Sometimes shorn koipu fur is passed off as more expensive furs. In Asian countries, water rat meat is classified as “for the poor”.But in Europe and America, it is considered a delicacy. Nutria dishes are tastier than beef dishes.

Rodent meat is dark red, like beef, and marbled, with frequent and thin veins. It is also rich in protein and amino acids. When cooking, the juice does not evaporate, so the dish turns out to be juicy and tender, with a specific aroma. Koipu meat is boiled and fried, marinated for barbecue, added to appetizers and soups. The water rat tastes like pork.

One hundred grams of the product contains 149 calories. Nutrient content in grams:

  • proteins - 23.9;
  • fat - 4.7;
  • carbohydrates - 1;
  • water - 70.8;
  • ash - 0.98.

The water rat meat also contains vitamins and microelements: iron, potassium, magnesium, B vitamins, ascorbic acid, phosphorus. The presence of an exotic product in the diet strengthens the immune system, nails, hair and skin. Nutria meat improves the synthesis of thyroid hormones, regulates metabolism and improves blood composition. But individual intolerance is not excluded.

Nutrient fat is a useful and valuable product. It melts and absorbs easily and is 11 percent polyunsaturated fatty acids. Koipu fat is used in the folk treatment of colds, added to rubbing. It is also used in cosmetology as a moisturizing and healing component. Regular consumption of water rat fat helps to strengthen the heart and blood vessels, relieve diabetes and prevent atherosclerosis.


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