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On Wellness through the Capybara

Updated: Mar 17

We could explain at length the health and wellbeing benefits of bathing activities. Instead, we'll share this story.

Zoology professor Tohru Kimura and his student Kengo Inaka from Yamaguchi University observed nine capybaras aged two to 12 during their bathing routines. The researchers documented the creatures' behaviour over three weeks as they bathed for 30 minutes each day in 35°C water. Kimura chose capybaras due to their unique enjoyment of baths, a rare trait among animals.

As semi-aquatic creatures often found near bodies of water, capybaras use hot springs in Japan's winter to stay warm, given their origins in the warm climates of South America. The researchers gauged the capybaras' comfort levels by analysing their facial expressions, developing a scale ranging from calm at baseline, to moderately comfortable and obviously comfortable.

The study revealed a noticeable change in the capybaras' comfort during bathing, perceived through the relaxed state of their eyelids. Their eyes peacefully drooped, resembling sleep, indicating increased comfort. 

Additionally, the researchers observed that consistent bathing improved the capybaras' skin texture, countering the negative effects of Japan's dry winter. The animals' skin became glossier and smoother, resembling their summer condition, and the moisture content increased.

The findings suggest that hot springs have dermatological benefits for capybaras, demonstrating the potential advantages for humans. "There needs to be more scientific research on the health benefits of such baths, but I hope this encourages everyone to use onsen as a way to maintain good health, and to live long. They’re quiet animals and very friendly creatures. They can almost be like a friend.”


Text Sources: 

Kengo Inaka & Tohru Kimura 

"Comfortable and dermatological effects of hot spring bathing provide demonstrative insight into improvement in the rough skin of Capybaras"Scientific Reports volume 11, Article number: 23675 (08 December 2021)

Hanako Montgomery

"Scientists Actually Measured How Comfy Capybaras Feel When Bathing in Hot Springs" 

Vice Media Group (21 December 2021)

Image Source:

Destiny Montague

Tohru Kimura, Resrach on Capybara's Comfortability Scale

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