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Armadillo Facts

Size Up to 3.2 ft (1 m)
Speed Up to 30 mph (48 km/h)
Weight 8.8-66 lb (4-30 kg)
Lifespan 4-12 years
Food Ants, termites
Predators Bears, wolves, coyotes
Habitat Central and South America
Order Cingulata
Family Armadillos
Scientific name Dasypodidae, Chlamyphoridae
Characteristics Thick leathery armour shell

Main Characteristics

Armadillos are armored mammals and belong to the order of the xenarthrans, which have additional vertebral extensions (additional joints). There are 21 species, which live in the semi-deserts, savannahs and steppes of America.

Armadillo Photo: Arto Hakola/Shutterstock

Anatomy and Appearance

What Is the Armadillo’s Armor Made Of?

We know that a rhino’s horn isn’t actually made of bone but of the same material as our hair and fingernails. This is not the case for armadillos. This makes them unique among mammals. Their armor is made from countless little plates of bone that are surrounded by a horn-like substance (like hair/fingernails).


Why Do Armadillos Have Armor?

It protects the animals from thorny plants and sharp rocks, keeping parasites away and making it harder for predators to attack.

Armadillo Photo: Heiko Kiera/Shutterstock


Armadillos Sleep All Day Long

Armadillos sleep 18.5 hours every day.

How Armadillos Cross a River

An armadillo has two methods to cross a river:

1. It fills its stomach and bowels with air and swims across the water like a small balloon.


2. It lets itself sink to the ground like a stone and uses its sharp claws to walk to the other shore.

Armadillo Photo: Heiko Kiera/Shutterstock


Armadillos are loners and only come together during the mating season. Depending on the species, the gestation period is 2-4 months. The shell of the babies is still soft and flexible at birth and takes some time to harden.

Armadillos Give Birth to Quadruplets

Imagine you had three brothers or sisters that all look the same and have the same gender. This is not unusual, but normal in the case of the nine-banded armadillo. It always gives birth to four babies that are absolutely identical. The seven-banded armadillo even has 7-9 identical babies.

Armadillo Photo: mlorenz/Shutterstock

Fun Facts

Armadillos Are Prone to Leprosy

Due to their weak immune system and their low body temperature, armadillos are rather susceptible for leprosy. This is an infectious disease caused by bacteria, which can also affect human beings. Infected persons do not feel any pain and get infected with additional diseases via undetected open wounds. Today, leprosy can be easily cured. It still is a serious problem in Third World countries, which often can only offer inadequate medical treatment.

How the Armadillo Got Its Scientific Name

The scientific name of the armadillo is “Dasypus novemncinctus”. “Dasypus“ is the Greek word for “hare“. “Novem“ and “cinctus” are Latin terms and mean “nine” and “belt”. Might there be just a hare hidden in the shell of the nine-banded animal? Only joking!

Extinct Armadillos

The glyptodon, a giant armadillo, lived about 12,000 years ago. It weighed up to 3,086 lb (1,400 kg) and was more than 9.8 feet (3 meters) long. As large as a small car! It became extinct at the end of the ice age.

The Armadillo Is Related To:

  • Giant Anteater
  • Sloth

Animals in the Same Biome:

Xenarthran Species Fact Sheets


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