Agouti (dasyprocta of Illiger; chloromys of Cuvier), a genus of animals belonging to the class mammalia, order rodentia, distinguished principally by their feet and toes, which are furnished with powerful claws, similar to those of the burrowing animals. The agoutis, however, neither burrow nor climb, roaming at large in the forests, and sheltering themselves among any casual defences they may find. They use their fore paws for the purpose of holding their food, sitting erect on their haunches while eating, and assuming the same attitude when looking about them or listening in alarm or surprise. The agouti is of nearly the size of a large hare, and like that animal has its hind legs longer than the fore, but not so disproportionately, for which reason it stands more erect. The common agouti, D. aguti, measures about 1 foot 8 inches in length, and stands 11 or 12 inches high at the croup. Its head resembles that of the rabbit; its face is convex; its nose swollen; its upper lip cleft; its ears round and naked; its eyes large; its upper jaw longer than the lower; and its tail a mere naked stump. The hairs on the upper parts are annulated alternately with black, brown, and yellow, producing a speckled yellow and green appearance on the neck, head, back, and sides.
The croup is golden yellow; the breast, belly, and inner part of the arms and thighs are straw color; the moustaches and feet black. The hair on the fore parts is about an inch long; on the rump nearly four times that length, whence the generic name of dasyprocta (hairy-rumped); and is everywhere, except on the breast and belly, of a stiff and bristly character. These animals inhabit Guiana and Brazil, and are also found in the West India islands, and as far south as Paraguay. On the islands, at the time of their first discovery, they were the largest known quadrupeds, and constituted the principal food of the dense Indian population. It is asserted and denied, by different authors, that they breed many times in each year, and produce many young at each birth; but the great numbers in which they are still found in all the hotter parts of America, in spite of their destruction by the small carnivora and by the Indian races, together with their affinity to the rabbit and cavy, seem to countenance the affirmative proposition. Their flesh is white and tender, and is cooked like that of the hare or rabbit.
The other varieties of this animal are the black or crested agouti, D. cristata, of Guiana and Brazil; the acouchy, or olive agouti, D. acuchi, of the West India isles, Guiana, and the northern parts of Brazil; the white-toothed agouti, D. croconata, of the Amazon; the biaek-rumped agouti, D. prymnolopha; the sooty agouti, D. fuliginosa, of northern Brazil, easily distinguished by its black color and great size; and, lastly, the Azara's agouti, D. Azarae, of Paraguay, Bolivia, and the south of Brazil. They are perfectly harmless, and appear to form a link between the families of the rabbit and cavy or Guinea pig.
Agouti (Dasyprocta aguti).