AskDefine | Define paca

Dictionary Definition

paca n : large burrowing rodent of South America and Central America; highly esteemed as food [syn: Cuniculus paca]

User Contributed Dictionary

see PACA




paca (plural: pacas)
  1. A large rodent, with dark brown or black fur, a white or yellowish underbelly and rows of white spots along its sides, native to Central America and South America.

See also

*Agouti paca

Classical Nahuatl


  • /paːka/


  1. To wash.


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  • Nahuatl as Written: Lessons in Older Written Nahuatl, with Copious Examples and Texts






  1. paca


Extensive Definition

For the village in Slovakia see Pača. See also PACA.
The Paca (Cuniculus paca), also known as the Spotted Paca, is a large rodent found in tropical and sub-tropical America, from East-Central Mexico to Paraguay. It is called paca in most of its range, but tepezcuintle in Mexico and Guatemala, Conejo Pintado in Panamá, guanta in Ecuador, majás in Peru and boruga in Colombia. It is also known as the gibnut in Belize, where it is prized as a game animal, labba in Guyana and lappe on the island of Trinidad.
There is much confusion in the nomenclature of this and related species; see agouti. In particular, the popular term agouti or common agouti normally refers to species of the distinct Dasyprocta genus (such as the Brazilian cotia, Dasyprocta punctata). Sometimes the word agouti is also used for a polyphyletic grouping uniting the families Cuniculidae and Dasyproctidae, which, besides the Paca and common agoutis, includes also the acouchis (Myoprocta). Cuniculus is the appropriate genus name instead of Agouti based on a 1998 ruling of the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature as the Paca's genus (Woods and Kilpatrick, 2005).


The paca has coarse fur without underfur, dark brown to black on the upper body and white or yellowish on the underbelly. It usually has three to five rows of white spots along its sides, against a dark grey background. It has thick strong legs, with four digits in the forefeet and five in the hind feet (the first and fifth are reduced); the nails function as hooves. The tail is short and hairless. The zygomatic arch is expanded laterally and dorsally and is used as a resonating chamber - a unique feature among mammals.
An adult paca weighs between 6 and 12 kg. It has two litters per year, each having usually one young, sometimes two; gestation lasts 115–120 days. Pacas are sexually mature at about 1 year.


Pacas are mostly nocturnal and solitary and do not vocalize very much. They live in forested habitats near water, preferably smaller rivers, and dig simple burrows about 2 m below the surface, usually with more than one exit. Pacas are good swimmers and usually head for the water to escape danger. Their diet includes leaves, stems, roots, seeds, and fruit, especially avocados, mangos and zapotes. They sometimes store food.

Economical and ecological aspects

Pacas are considered agricultural pests for yam, cassava, sugar cane, corn and other food crops. Their meat has excellent flavor and is highly prized. They are plentiful in protected habitats, and hence not in danger of extinction, but overall their numbers have been much reduced because of hunting and habitat destruction. They are easily bred and raised in farms, although the taste is said to be highly inferior (perhaps unpleasant) when farmed.


  • Woods, C. A. and C. W. Kilpatrick. 2005. Hystricognathi. Pp 1538-1600 in Mammal Species of the World a Taxonomic and Geographic Reference 3rd ed. D. E. Wilson and D. M. Reeder eds. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C.
paca in German: Paka
paca in Spanish: Agouti paca
paca in French: Paca (rongeur)
paca in Dutch: Paca
paca in Polish: Paka
paca in Portuguese: Paca
paca in Swedish: Paka
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