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21 of the MOST COMMON Examples of Rodents

Rodents make up a large part of the animal kingdom. In fact, around 40% of all mammals are rodents. While many types of rodents share common features, they’re a quite diverse group of animals that can live in burrows, trees, or along the water!

Currently, there are around 1,500 living rodent species that can be found in captivity and in the wild. From common creatures like the mouse to unusual animals like the capybara, these are some examples of rodents in the world today!

What Defines a Rodent?

Rodents are mammals with incisor teeth that constantly grow. While rodents vary in size, most rodents are fairly small and have short limbs. It’s also common for rodents to have long tails.

Scientists have traced rodent fossils all the way back to the Paleocene era, which was around 66 to 56 million years ago! Today, you can find rodents across the world, where they live in all sorts of habitats. It’s estimated that there are more than 1,500 living rodent species.

21 Examples of Rodents

1. Tree Squirrels

Tree Squirrel eating
Tree squirrel eating | image by Astyan42 via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific name: Sciurus

These rodents are known for their large, bushy tails. They primarily live in trees, which gives them easy access to their preferred food, tree nuts! Squirrels are highly adaptive and can thrive in many habitats.

In North America, some of the most common varieties of tree squirrel include the fox squirrel and the eastern gray squirrel. Squirrels spend most of their time gathering food, which they bury to eat later. Since squirrels don’t always eat the nuts they bury, they help to plant trees throughout their environments.

2. House mice

House mouse
House mouse

Scientific name: Mus musculus

Despite its name, the house mouse lives in the wild, though it prefers habitats that are near humans. It can be found all over North America and is known to infest homes. These mice have small, round ears, long tails, and pointed snouts.

House mice mature quickly and usually start breeding when they’re between six and eight weeks old! Although these mice can reproduce quickly, they tend to have a short life span. Typically, they live anywhere from 12 to 18 months.

3. Rats

Rats on lumber
Rats on lumber | Image by Silvia from Pixabay

Scientific name: Rattus

There are several creatures are commonly referred to as rats, but the typical rat is a part of the rattus genus. One of the most common rat species, the black rat, is native to India but can now be found worldwide! Another species, the brown rat, is the dominant rat in most of North America and Europe.

Rats are similar in appearance to mice, but they’re typically larger. Size can vary based on species, but rats usually don’t grow to weigh more than 1.1 pounds. However, domesticated rats can be bigger than your average rat.

4. Porcupines

Porcupine spreading its quills
Porcupine spreading its quills | Image by Tom from Pixabay

Scientific name: Hystricidae or Erethizontidae

There are two disctinct rodent families families are known as porcupines. Old World porcupines, or hystricidae, can be found in Asia, Africa, and Europe. New World Porcupines, or erethizontidae, live in North and South America.

All porcupines are covered in sharp quills, which they can use to scare off predators. When a porcupine loses its quills, it’s able to grow them back. Most porcupines are herbivores and feed on twigs, leaves, and other plants.

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5. Chipmunks

Chipmunks playing
Chipmunks playing | image by douglas haase via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Tamias

The chipmunk is a small rodent, typically measuring between 2 and 6 inches long with a 3-inch tail. It’s easy to recognize chipmunks thanks to the long stripes they have along their backs. These rodents are heavy sleepers and can sleep up to 15 hours per day!

Chipmunks like to build complex burrow systems. The average chipmunk will stay close to its burrow at all times so that it can quickly retreat from predators. These rodents are omnivores and enjoy all kinds of foods, like nuts, seeds, and small insects.

6. Pocket gophers

Pocket Gopher on the ground
Pocket Gopher on the ground | image by Cataloging Nature via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Geomyidae

Usually referred to as gophers, pocket gophers use their sharp claws to dig vast systems of tunnels. Since gophers primarily live underground, they prefer habitats with moist soil and lots of vegetation. They have large cheek pouches that they use to store dirt!

Gophers are big eaters and typically consume around 60% of their weight in food each day. The average gopher weighs around 0.5 pounds and measures anywhere from 5 to 14 inches long. Gophers are herbivores and feed on roots, plants, and grasses.

7. Beavers

Beaver in the grass
Beaver in the grass | Image by Steve Raubenstine from Pixabay

Scientific name: Castor

The beaver is a semiaquatic rodent, which means it splits its time between land and water! Beavers use rocks, muds, and tree branches to build dams along the water. They’re usually found near lakes, ponds, and rivers.

One of the beaver’s most noticeable features is its tail, which is long and flat. While a beaver’s rear feet are webbed, their paws have fingers, which helps them grasp objects. Beavers are mostly nocturnal and usually hide in their shelters during the day.

8. Hamsters

Hamster eating inside the cage
Hamster eating inside the cage

Scientific name: Cricetinae

These small rodents have short tails, which makes them stand out from other rodent species. In North America, hamsters are domesticated and kept as pets. However, hamsters can be spotted in the wild throughout Europe and Asia.

Most hamsters are crepuscular, which means they’re most active at dawn and dusk. In the wild, hamsters tend to stay underground when it’s light out so that they can hide from predators. They like to store food in pouches inside their cheeks!

9. Marmots

Hoary Marmot sits on rock
Hoary Marmot sits on rock | image by Colin Bowdery via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Marmota

The marmot is a ground squirrel and the largest member of the squirrel family! An adult marmot can be anywhere from 17 to 32 inches long, including its tail. They have short legs and long claws, which they use to dig holes underground!

In North America, the most commonly seen species is the hoary marmot, which is typically found in mountain habitats. These animals are active in spring and summer, but usually hibernate for 7 to 8 months per year. Research shows that hibernating may slow the marmot’s aging process!

10. Voles

water voles eating green plants
Water voles eating green plants | image by Peter Trimming via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Microtus

While people sometimes mistake voles for mice, they’re actually a close relative of hamsters! There are many vole species found across North America. The typical vole measures between 4 and 9 inches long and weighs around 2 ounces.

Voles have a short lifespan and rarely live more than 6 months in the wild. They’re typically herbivores and prefer foods like seeds, roots, and bulbs. Due to these eating habits, voles are considered to be garden pests.

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11. Kangaroo rats

Kangaroo rat on rocky ground
Kangaroo rat on rocky ground | image by Channel City Camera Club via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Dipodomys

The kangaroo rat is a small rodent with large hind feet, which it can use to jump as far as 9 feet. This animal is typically found in the western United States and lives in desert habitats.

Kangaroo rats are able to survive on very little water and can get all the moisture they need from the seeds they feed on. They don’t sweat, and they typically burrow underground to stay cool during the day.

12. Deer mice

Deer mouse staring
Deer mouse staring | image by
Seney Natural History Association via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific name: Peromyscus

While deer mice closely resemble house mice, these rodents are actually distant relations. They tend to have very large eyes, and many species have two-toned fur! Deer mice are very common in the U.S., especially the eastern deer mouse and the white-footed mouse.

Another thing that separates deer mice from house mice is their lifespan. Deer mice can live for 5 to 7 years. In the wild, these mice are skilled climbers and swimmers and frequently search for food in shallow water.

13. Guinea pigs

Guinea pig
Guinea pig looking at the camera | Image by Vantage Point Graphics from Pixabay

Scientific name: Cavia porcellus

The guinea pig is native to the Andes Mountains in South America, but it’s been introduced to countries all over the world. In North America and Europe, this animal is a popular pet thanks to its size and docile personality.

Guinea pigs are larger than most rodents, measuring around 8 to 10 inches long and weighing anywhere from 1.5 to 2.6 pounds. While nearly all guinea pigs have thick fur, one species, the skinny pig, is completely hairless!

14. Prairie dogs

Prairie dog senses danger
Prairie dog senses danger | image by AUTHOR via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Cynomys

These ground squirrels primarily live in western North America and are usually found in grassland habitats. Prairie dogs are known for digging burrows underground. When prairie dogs dig holes, they leave behind mounds of dirt, which are used by many other animals.

While prairie dogs are mostly herbivores, they occasionally eat insects. They’re extremely social animals that like to live in large colonies. A prairie dog colony will usually contain around 15 to 26 rodents!

15. Capybaras

Group of capybara
Group of capybara

Scientific name: Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris

The capybara is a cavy rodent and a close relative of the guinea pig. It’s the largest living rodent and can grow to be 3.48 to 4.40 feet long. Capybaras have reddish-brown fur, pig-like bodies, and no visible tails.

These rodents are semi-aquatic mammals and prefer to live along lakes and rivers. They can be found throughout South America, but are not present in Chile. The capybara is very docile and is known for being friendly to other animals.

16. Groundhogs

Groundhog standing up
Groundhog standing up

Scientific name: Marmota monax

Sometimes known as woodchucks, groundhogs are a type of marmot that prefers to live in woodlands or plains habitats. They’re primarily herbivores and like to feed on wild grass and berries. A single groundhog can eat more than a pound of food in just one day.

Groundhogs usually measure around 17.75 to 24 inches long. During the summer and fall seasons, they spend most of their time eating foods like plants and grubs. They hibernate during the winter and become active again in spring!

17. Muskrats

Muskrat floats on the pond
Muskrat floats on the pond | image by Scott Heron via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific name: Ondatra zibethicus

The muskrat is a semiaquatic rodent that usually measures around 16 to 25 inches long, plus a tail measuring between 7 and 11 inches. While it’s native to North America, it’s also been introduced to other parts of the world, like Europe and Asia.

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Most muskrats live in damp environments, such as marshes or swamps. To keep cool in hot weather, they dig burrows underground. Muskrats are known for their strong scents, which they use to mark their territory.

18. Chinchilla

Chinchilla perching on a small trunk
Chinchilla perching on a small trunk | Image by Andreas Lischka from Pixabay

Scientific name: Chinchilla lanigera

These rodents are known for their long tails and dense fur. Many rodents have short lifespans, but a chinchilla can live up to 10 years in the wild and 20 years in captivity. While chinchillas are native to the Andes Mountains in South America, they’re kept as pets worldwide.

Chinchillas are temperature sensitive and try to avoid getting wet. They clean themselves by taking baths in dirt or dust. The chinchilla prefers rocky habitats and usually lives in burrows or crevices.

19. Gerbils

Gerbil inside the cage
Gerbil inside the cage | image by Matt via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific name: Gerbillinae

While gerbils were once known as desert rats, they’re actually a distinct type of animal. In fact, there are more than 100 gerbil species! Gerbils vary in size, but they tend to be small rodents with long tails.

When a gerbil needs to escape a predator, it can shed its tail for a quick escape! Unfortunately, once lost, these tails don’t grow back. Gerbils are social animals and usually live together in large systems of tunnels.

20. Nutria

Nutria holding a food
Nutria holding a food | image by 7C0 via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Myocastor coypus

Sometimes called copyu, nutria are large, semiaquatic rodents with webbed feet. While these rodents are native to South America, they’ve been introduced to many other regions, including North America, Europe, and Asia. Nutrias are big eaters and can consume around 1/4 of its bodyweight in food each day!

Typically, nutria live in burrows or nests along marshes or swamps. They’re excellent swimmers and can stay underwater for more than 5 minutes! One of the nutria’s most unusual features is its teeth, which are coated in a bright orange enamel.

21. Agouti

agouti eats his meal
Agouti eats his food | image by Leonora (Ellie) Enking via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific name: Dasyprocta

The agouti is a close relative of the guinea pig. At first glance, it may look similar to a tree squirrel, but it has a hairless tail! It has coarse hair that’s covered in a protective oily substance.

Agouti have very hard teeth and can crack open all kinds of nuts, including Brazil nuts! While these rodents have been introduced to other parts of the world, they’re primarily found in Middle America.