grasscutter-411x336The greater cane rat (often called Grasscutter in Nigeria and Ghana) (Thryonomys swinderianus) is one of two species of cane rats, a small family of African hystricognath rodents. The cane rat lives by reed-beds and riverbanks in Sub-Saharan Africa. Cane rats can grow to nearly 2 ft (0.61 m) in length and weigh a little less than 19 lb (8.6 kg). It has rounded ears, a short nose, and coarse bristly hair. Its forefeet are smaller than its hind feet, each with three toes.

Grasscutters live in small groups led by a single male. They are nocturnal and make nests from grasses or burrow underground. Individuals of the species may live in excess of four years. If frightened, they grunt and run towards water. So far, their conservation status is lower risk.

As humans expanded into the Grasscuter’s native habitats, the Grasscutters likewise expanded from their native reeds into the plantations, particularly the sugar cane plantations from which they derive their name. Their tendency to adopt plantations as habitat, where they feed on agricultural crops such as maize, wheat, sugar-cane and cassava, often earns them the label of agricultural pest. However, the peoples of the region also utilize the Grasscutter as a food source (as bushmeat), considering the meat a delicacy. Consequently, grasscutters are beginning to be raised in cages for sale. (

f7cb7d22fa839b01191b42d63b68bdc11ea2c5ffGrasscutter farming has become very popular in Nigeria and Ghana. Grasscutters are now easily raised in homes and farms. Grasscutters can be raised in cages. The grasscutter cage is normally made of metal, iron or blocks. This is to prevent the grasscutters from destroying the cage and venturing into the bush or farmlands.
A male grasscutter (cane-rat ) is referred to as a Buck while the female is called a Doe. A newly kindled young grasscutters are called Litters.

Behaviour: Cane rats are predominantly nocturnal in the wild and travel through trails in the reeds and grass. They appear to live in small groups of up to 12 animals. In captivity, greater cane rats exist as family groups of one male and from one to seven females.

The dominant male will not tolerate the presence of another mature male. They are vegetarian and eat the roots, shoots, and stems of various grasses. They cut the grass stems at the base with their powerful incisors, and then while sitting in an upright position, they manipulate the grass stem or other foodstuff with their front paws while pushing it into the mouth and chopping it into small pieces with the incisors. Grasses are their principal food, including elephant grass, Pennisetum purpureum, and buffalo or guinea grass, Panicum maximum. They consume the soft parts of the grasses and shrubs, and the drier sections and leaves are often discarded.


Grasses (elephant grass)
Guinea grass
Sugar cane
leguminous fodder.
Coconut palms
Unripe Fruits (such as pawpaw, pineapple, mango)
Tubers (cassava, sweet potato, etc)
Food crops (such as groundnut, rice, maize and grain legumes).
Kitchen leftovers.
Salted corn cobs

They can become severe agricultural pests in some areas where crops, such as peanuts, maize, sorghum, wheat, cassava, and sugar cane grow in close proximity to their habitat.

The principal objectives of a Grasscutter breeder would be to reproduce good quality animals with a low rate of mortality, observed in both the kindled litters and the nursing doe.

In order to maintain the Grasscutter polygamous culture, as obtainable in their natural home, for reproduction purpose. It is advisable to house a colony of 4 Does to be serviced by a Buck.

The gestation period of grass cutter is 156 days. A newborn young grass cutter is born fully furred with open eyes. Mass at birth varies from 75-204g. The young are weaned at about four to six weeks. Naturally grass cutters produce throughout the year although birth peaks occur at certain times of the year, presumably during rainy seasons when more food is available. In captivity, birth can occur any time males and females are placed together.

Average weight of wild grass cutters is 4 – 5kg, males can reach up to 10 kg. The female reaches sexual maturity at 5 months, but it is not advisable to be used in breeding until it is 6 months old, when it weighs approximately 1.5kg. After a gestation period of 152 days (about 5 months), the female gives birth to an average of 4 young ones, which are morphologically identical to adults. The largest litter is obtained at the second parturition. The male reaches sexual maturity at 6 months, but it may be used for breeding from the age of 8 months, or a minimum weight of 2kg.



Source/Credit: Segun Ogunlana