“Rabbit or deer?”
That’s the question Texas deputies were asking after rescuing an “unusual animal” from the side of a highway last week.
They responded to this “wandering animal” after receiving a “unique call” from someone who couldn’t identify what the critter was, according to the Houston Humane Society.
It had long hind legs, bunny-like ears and the body of a hoofed animal, as seen in photos posted to Facebook by Ted Heap, Harris County Constable Precinct 5.
The rabbit-deer looking creature was neither a rabbit nor a deer, though.
“Turns out it was a pet Patagonian mara, also known as a Dillaby, who had been lost from a home in the Katy area,” Heap said. Katy is about 30 miles west of Houston.
So, what is this creature?
“The Patagonian mara is a herbivorous member of the rodent family found only in Argentina,” Heap wrote on Facebook.
“They are distant relatives to guinea pigs and somewhat resemble a cross between a rabbit and a small deer,” he continued. “They have small, compressed feet that make them resemble hooves from a distance and longer ears resembling those of a rabbit.”
With the help of someone nearby, the deputies corralled “the friendly little fella” before taking him away from danger, according to the Facebook post.
The deputies then took the creature to the Houston Humane Society to get the Argentina-native critter examined, the post says.
“What a surprise to find out he was an owned pet and had been lost,” the Houston Humane Society said on Facebook.
The deputies tracked down the Patagonian mara’s owner and learned that he is a pet named Jimmy, Heap said.
“Dr. Scruggs and the HHS medical team were able to get him checked out, cleaned up, rested, and back to his very thankful owner,” the society said.
PetHelpful.com has lots of information about raising Patagonian Maras as pets.
“Unfortunately, they are not as well-behaved indoors as dogs. Being rodents, they are avid chewers,” PetHelpful says. “They like to dig, and they will make attempts to dig at your carpet and flooring.
“These animals have powerful hind legs and can jump, horizontally, up to 7 feet ... So while some people keep them indoors, they will not behave like ‘traditional’ indoor pets and will require some tolerance or exotic animal experience,” the website says.
Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute also shared a few “fun facts” about Patagonian maras.
They prefer grasslands and brushland with lots of open space, the Smithsonian says, and they like to eat grass, along with some seeds, fruits and flowers.
The animals are “built for running” and travel with a mate, according to the National Zoo.
“Patagonian maras can live for approximately 14 years in human care,” the Smithsonian says. “Their lifespan in the wild is unknown.”