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How to Draw Animals: Big Rodents and Their Anatomy

This post is part of a series called How to Draw Animals.
How to Draw Animals: Small Rodents and Their Anatomy
How to Draw Animals: Kangaroos and Koalas
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Not so long ago we were learning about small rodents like mice, rats, hamsters and others. Even though when we say "rodent", generally we've got something small in mind, some representatives of the family are really, really big! Today we'll get to know the capybara, beaver, porcupine, nutria, groundhog, and muskrat—they're all rodents, so we can use the knowledge we already have to enhance our animal base by six new, interesting species!


Since this tutorial is a continuation of the previous one of the series, you should go there for information about the general features of rodents. Today we'll only talk about the features of particular species.

small rodents tutorial

For drawing the heads of big rodents we're going to use the template below—a big ball for the "braincase", a smaller one for the upper jaw, and a flattened one for the lower jaw. This structure can be easily modified in perspective as described in this tutorial.

rodents how to draw head

1. Capybara

The capybara is the largest rodent, quite similar to its relative, the guinea pig. It's a social animal living in groups, so it makes a nice pet—as long as you can handle it! Capybaras, though round and heavy, are excellent runners and swimmers. They have long legs with hoof-like feet, and coarse, light brown fur. What's characteristic for the capybara?

  1. Stocky snout
  2. Seemingly narrow, elongated eyes
  3. Small, guinea-pig like ears
  4. No tail
  5. Four slightly webbed toes on the front feet
  6. Three slightly webbed toes on the hind feet
how to draw capybara body
how to draw capybara body 2


The capybara's head is almost rectangular in look, with the front of the snout flattened. Male capybaras have a scent gland on the nose bridge, looking like a flat, black stone. The front of the snout may look shaved, being darker than the rest of the body.

how to draw capybara head


The capybara has unique eyes among the animals we're learning about today. While the rest of them have a bigger version of "black beads" as described in the previous tutorial of the series, the eyes of the capybara have an elegant look because of special shape of their eyelids' borders.

how to draw capybara eyes


Most big rodents don't have a typical mouse nose, and this applies to the capybara, too.

how to draw capybara head mouth snout nose


The fingers of capybaras aren't as long (proportionally) as those of rats, and they also have big, blunt, hoof-like claws. They're connected with a web.

how to draw capybara pwas feet toes


The capybara is rather plain in color, light brown, with dark gray sometimes showing on the snout, legs, and ears. Pinkish skin can be noticed on the inner side of the legs.

how to draw capybara color

2. Beaver

Beavers are the second largest after capybaras. They're semi-aquatic animals with a very stocky body and a characteristic flat tail. On land you'll mainly see them sitting like a squirrel, or running with their belly close to the ground. What makes a beaver look?

  1. Stocky, slightly tapered snout with prominent lips
  2. Small eyes
  3. Small ears
  4. Rounded back
  5. Flat, scaly tail
  6. Five toes on the front feet
  7. Five webbed toes on the hind feet
how to draw beaver body
how to draw beaver body 2


The snout should look very short in comparison to the rest of the head. Prominent lips are very important for a "beaver look".

how to draw beaver head


The beaver has a big, dog-like nose placed high on the snout.

how to draw beaver nose mouth snout


The fingers of the beaver's front feet are very agile, with long claws. On the hind feet they're specialized for swimming, converted to flippers by being webbed on the whole lengths (compare them to the capybara's feet to see the difference).

how to draw beaver feet paws flippers


Beavers have dark chocolate fur with occasional blondish patches and a lighter underside.

how to draw beaver colors

3. Porcupine

The third largest rodent is also the most interesting one, the least "rodenty" in look. The porcupine has a rather slender body, but its silhouette is concealed by a bush of long, banded quills. What do you need to include in your porcupine drawing?

African Crested Porcupine (Old World Porcupine)

  1. Rounded snout
  2. Medium-sized, rounded ears
  3. Long, hair-like spikes on the head
  4. Sharp hair on whole body
  5. A bush of quills on the back, lying almost flat when the animal is relaxed
  6. Short, spiky tail
  7. Four toes on the front feet
  8. Five toes on the hind feet
how to draw african crested porcupine body
African crested porcupine

North American Porcupine (New World Porcupine)

The North American porcupine isn't very closely related to the African one, but they're still very similar:

how to draw north american porcupine body
North American porcupine
how to draw porcupine body 2


The porcupine's body is so characteristic that you can't go wrong here—if you're good at drawing hamsters or rats, their heads will work properly for the porcupine head.

how to draw porcupine head


There's an important difference between these species:

African Crested Porcupine

This kind of porcupine has rabbit-like nose, elongated, with holes placed along a neat line.

how to draw porcupine african crested nose mouth

North American Porcupine

This kind of porcupine has big, round nostrils, and the nose is almost heart-shaped.

how to draw porcupine north american nose mouth teeth


Both porcupines are very dark in color, with banded or plain, light quills.

how to draw porcupine colors


The porcupine is a very hairy (or should I say, spiky?) animal, so the feet look more paw-like than those of other rodents. Claws are long and curved, making the whole foot look similar to a bear's.

how to draw porcupine feet paws claws

4. Nutria

The nutria is another of the semi-aquatic rodents on our list. They look very much like huge rats, including long, scaly tails. What's the most important for your drawn nutria?

  1. Rounded snout
  2. Small ears
  3. Rounded back
  4. Rat-like tail, scaly and hairy
  5. Orange or red incisors visible even when the mouth is closed
  6. A thick bunch of white whiskers
  7. Five toes on the front feet
  8. Five webbed toes on the hind feet
how to draw nutria body
how to draw nutria body 2


A nutria is just a huge rat, right? Hence, we can use the rat head without any remorse. Remember about prominent incisors!

how to draw nutria head


The nutria has a similar heart-shaped nose as the North American porcupine:

how to draw nutria snout nose whiskers teeth

5. Groundhog

Groundhogs, or woodchucks, are popular animals of North America. They're close relatives of squirrels, and they can climb a tree when necessary. What do you need to include in your drawing to picture a groundhog?

  1. Short, tapered snout
  2. Small ears
  3. Long body
  4. Short, bushy tail
  5. Four toes on the front feet
  6. Five toes on the hind feet
how to draw groundhog body
how to draw groundhog body 2


Since groundhogs are technically squirrels, we need to make the snout more tapered than with other rodents on our list today.

how to draw groundhog head


The nose of the groundhog can be closed like the rabbit's (notice the line of bending in the center).

how to draw groundhog mouth nose teeth


The fur of groundhogs is a mix of reddish and black hair, with bright guard hairs.

how to draw groundhog colors

6. Muskrat

Muskrats are the smallest rodents on our list today, and another swimming one. They're very similar to nutrias, except they're more hamster than rat in look. What do you need to draw to make a muskrat?

  1. Short, rounded snout
  2. Small ears
  3. Rounded back
  4. Scaly, vertically flattened tail
  5. Five toes on the front feet
  6. Five slightly webbed toes on the hind feet
how to draw muskrat body
how to draw muskrat body 2


The solution for the muskrat head is a rat's head with a very short snout.

how to draw muskrat head


The muskrat is the only rodent on our list that actually has a typical rodent nose. Check the previous tutorial for more info.


Muskrats are dark in color, brown with black patches and a brighter mouth.

how to draw muskrat colors

7. Practice Exercise—Draw an Illustration

Now we can use all this theory in practice. This is going to be shortened step; for more detailed explanation see the same section in the first part of this tutorial.

Step 1

Start with a rough sketch of your idea. My concept was a beaver sitting on the riverbank, observing a nutria that just swam here.

how to draw big rodents exercise 1

Step 2

Sculpt the bodies out of this mess, trying to adjust the body template to them.

how to draw big rodents exercise 2

Step 3

Use the previous lines as a base for a cleaner picture.

how to draw big rodents exercise 3

Step 4

Clean up the line art, paying more attention to the thickness of the lines.

how to draw big rodents exercise 4

The End

You can add another big family of animals to your database! Even though rodents aren't the most popular creatures to draw, keep in mind that you can use their features to create your own original beasts. As always, make sure you didn't miss any of my other animal tutorials—you can find them all on my profile.

If there's something about drawing animals (or drawing at all) you find problematic, don't hesitate to let me know in the comments—I'll be glad to help, and maybe you'll even give me an idea for another tutorial!

final image large rodents

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