Spanish common name "mara" refers to large rodents of Caviidae family that occur in arid and semiarid parts of southernmost South America. Patagonian Mara (Dolichotis patagonum) is also known as Patagonian hare because of some resemblance to hares and jackrabbits. When it leaps 6 feet into the air from all four of its long legs like an antilope, it seems a cross between a rabbit and a small deer. Its body is that of a long-legged rodent that is related to guinea pig.
Patagonian Mara, sometimes called Patagonian hare or Patagonian cavy, is a large rodent that can weigh as much as 30 pounds and run at speeds of up to 45 km per hour, making it the fastest rodent in the world. Maras occur in lowland forest, shrub and grasslands of Argentina. This species is an herbivore feeding mainly on fruits and green vegetation with a preference for grasses over shrubs. Maras are very unusual among mammals in that they are strongly monogamous with pairs remaining together until death. The males vigorously defend their partners from the advances of other males. The partners seem to chatter to each other continuously with low- and high-volume whistles. The pair breeds two or three times a year. One to three young are born that are placed in a common den dug by the females, which is home to as many as fifteen pairs and their young.
Patagonian Mara spends considerable time basking in the sun but is ever on the alert for danger. A timid animal, mara is much hunted by its prinicipal enemies like foxes, pumas and pampas cats, but the young are more endangered by weasels, eagles, and hawks.
- Mammals of South America, Volume 2: Rodents, Volume 2. James L. Patton, Ulyses F. J. Pardiñas, Guillermo D'Elia (editors)
- Argentina/2 Bradt. Erin McCloskey
- Patagonia: At the Bottom of the World. Richard L. Lutz, Dick Lutz
- Animal Distribution. D.R. Khanna
- Walker's Mammals of the World, Volume 1. Ronald M. Nowak
- Encyclopedia of Deserts. Michael A. Mares, Oklahoma Museum of Natural History (editors)