The Capuchin Monkey

Taxonomic Classification:  Cebus capucinuc

Common Name: Capuchin Monkey

Physical Description:

  • Head and Body Length: 12.6-22 inches
  • Tail Length: 15-22 inches
  • Body Mass: 2.4-7.3 pounds
  • Dental Formula:  2:1:3:3
  • Brain Size:  79.2 grams (slightly larger brain/body ratio than other new world monkeys)
  • Sexual Dimorphism: adult males tend to have larger head and body proportions than females
  • Fur: completely  furred with short fur around face and longer thick hair on the rest of the body
  • Fur Coloration: black or brown  with white patches on chest or shoulders, underside is usually yellow or light brown, and top of the head is black
  • Locomotion: quadrupedalism (use all four limbs to run and walk), can swing and leap, can swim, can walk on two limbs for short period of time

Geographic Location and Range

  • Central and South America 
  • Found from sea level to 8,500ft (in Colombian Andes) 
  • Found in dry forests, deciduous forests, and rainforests 
  • Dwell in the canopy of forests 
  • Have been known to come down from the trees to steal food from plantations


  • Omnivorous (eat both plants and animals)
  • Both hunts and gathers
  • Prefers fruit (berries)
  • Will prey on small animals (insects, birds, lizards)
  • Will spend entire daytime hours hunting and gathering, except for a couple of hours of rest in the afternoon
  • Beats nuts and larger fruits against rocks to open the shell or soften the fruit
  • Shares nutrient resources in harmony with squirrel monkeys


Social Organization

  • unique in the fact that they can adapt to places colonized by humans
  • usually live in the forests in groups of 10-35 composed of related females and their offspring, along with many males
  • led by one alpha male along with one alpha female
  • polygamous mating system, where the females prefer the dominant males. However, when the dominant males are not present other males have mating opportunities.
  • A major component of the Capuchin Monkey is their communication. They use vocalization to hold together group dynamics.
  • Capuchins are also very territorial animals. They use urine to mark their location as well as keep intruders out.


  • Female Capuchins reach maturity before their male counterparts and are able to give birth by age 4, while males are not considered fully matured till about 7 years old.
  • The length of their gestation period ranges from about 150-160 days long.
  • For the first few months, all parenting responsibilities are left for the mother because it is said that male Capuchins “don’t care” about parenting.
  • Capuchin Monkeys having interbirth intervals of about 26 months.
  • Female Capuchins have no estrus swelling.

Parental Care

  • The age of weaning for the Capuchin Monkey is estimated for the first 13-14 months.
  • Capuchin Monkeys are able to be transferred from group to group between ages 2-5 years old.
  • The mothers are close with baby Capuchin Monkeys as they care for the infants and nurture them for the first few months.
  • Fathers don’t have much have a relationship with their young till they get older and can help lead the pack. 



  • Capuchin monkeys use vocalization and grooming as sources of regular casual everyday communication.
  • They also use scents to mark their territory using urine, they are very territorial and this can be used as the first line of communication and defense.
    • Capuchins are known to urinate on their hands and rub it through their fur to sent mark; this is a way for males to notify others of their sexual maturity within a group.
  • Also the female capuchin monkey may follow a male monkey yelling or hollering to communicate their readiness to mate.
  • Capuchin monkeys have the ability to use tools, and sign language when in captivity but it is not a sufficient form of communication for these monkeys, it is more of a trained repetition behavior, similar to behaviors of dogs or cats. 

Evidence of Culture

  • Baby Capuchin monkeys learn many of their behaviors from observing their mother and other members of their community.
    • Babies cling to their mothers for several months after they are born.
  • If a baby Capuchin monkey is separated from its mother, other Capuchin monkeys will respond and care for the infant monkey.
  • There are slight differences between different groups, but the gist of things is often the same, Capuchins pass on a lot of culture and tradition from the way they share food, to the way they groom, play and interact with other social groups as the above information shows.


Other topics of special interest:

  • Capuchin monkeys have become pets for many people in countries around the world, they have been used as therapy pets for people with disabilities, and some of their tasks have been being trained to assist quadriplegics.
  • Also they had been hunted and used for food in some countries around the world because they are so adaptable to different environments they are being found in more urban areas and being used to hunt and eat.


Napier, J. R., and P. H. Napier. “Cebus.” A Handbook of Living Primates. 1967. 88-92. Print.

“New World monkeys 1: Squirrel monkeys and capuchin.” Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia. Ed. Melissa C. McDade. 2nd ed. 2004. 101-12. Print.

Parker, Sue Taylor. Gibson, Kathleen Rita. “Language” and intelegance in monkeys and apes”. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

“Primatology; New Primatology Study Results from S.R. Ross et al Described. ” Veterinary Week  17 Jan. 2011: Sciences Module, ProQuest. Web.  3 Feb. 2011.

“Primatology; Researchers at National Institutes of Health release new data on primatology. ” Science Letter  9 Dec. 2008: Health Module, ProQuest. Web.  3 Feb. 2011.

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