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Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Mustelidae
Subfamily: Mustelinae
Genus: Eira
Hamilton Smith, 1842
Species: E. barbara
Binomial name
Eira barbara
(Linnaeus, 1758)
Tayra area.png
Tayra range

The tayra (Eira barbara), also known as the tolomuco or perico ligero in Central America, motete in Honduras, irara in Brazil, san hol or viejo de monte in the Yucatan Peninsula, and high-woods dog (or historically chien bois) in Trinidad, [2] is an omnivorous animal from the weasel family Mustelidae. It is the only species in the genus Eira. There are at least nine subspecies.

Range and habitat[edit]

Tayras live in the tropical forests of Central America, South America and on the island of Trinidad.


Tayras have an appearance similar to weasels and martens, growing to a size of about 60 cm (23.6 in), not including a 45 cm (17.7 in) long tail. Most tayras have either dark brown or black fur with a lighter patch on its chest. The fur on its head changes to brown or gray as it ages. Tayras grow to weigh around 5 kilograms (11 pounds), ranging from 2.7 to 7.5 kg (6-16.5 pounds).[3]


The tayra, unlike other Mustelidae, does not display embryonic diapause, otherwise known as delayed implantation (this reproductive strategy in other mustelids delays embryonic development and allows the female to delay birth of offspring until environmental factors are favorable). The female gives birth to 2 to 4 altricial, black-coated young.

A Tayra from above
A rare white tayra at Ipswich Museum, Ipswich, Suffolk, England


Tayras travel both alone and in groups during both the day and the night. They are expert climbers, and can leap from treetop to treetop when pursued; they can also run fast and swim well.


Tayras eat mainly rodents, but also consume carrion, other small mammals, reptiles, birds and fruits. They live in hollow trees, burrows in the ground, or terrestrial nests made of tall grass. Tayras are opportunistic eaters, hunting rodents and invertebrates, and climbing trees to get eggs and honey. In Central Brazil they are called "Papa Mel" (honey eater). They are attracted to fruit and can be found raiding orchards. They also have a sweet tooth for Pygmy Marmoset

An interesting instance of caching has been observed among tayras: a tayra will pick unripe green plantains, which are inedible, and leave them to ripen in a cache, coming back a few days later to consume the softened pulp.

Tayras and people[edit]

Tayras are playful and easily tamed. Indigenous people, who often refer to the tayra as "cabeza del viejo", or old man's head, due to their wrinkled facial skin, have kept them as household pets to control vermin. Sometimes, they attack domestic animals, such as chickens.


Wild tayra populations are slowly shrinking, especially in Mexico, due to habitat destruction for agricultural purposes. The species as a whole is listed as a Least Concern species; subspecies have not been evaluated by the IUCN.



  1. ^ Cuarón, A. D., et al. 2008. Eira barbara. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. Downloaded on 02 June 2013.
  2. ^ http://www2.ine.gob.mx/publicaciones/libros/360/yuc.html
  3. ^ Tayra

Further reading[edit]

  • Nowak, Ronald M. (2005). Walker's Carnivores of the World. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press. ISBN 0-8018-8032-7
  • Emmons, L.H. (1997). Neotropical Rainforest Mammals, 2nd ed. University of Chicago Press ISBN 0-226-20721-8