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14 Wonderful Wombat Facts About the Unique Marsupial

Welcome to the list of wombat facts, where we spotlight this unique marsupial. This creature enjoys such a deep connection with the earth that its digging has influenced the evolution of its anatomy. Moreover, wombat poop is a cube, and its pouch is facing backward. Read on to learn the reason for these impressive adaptations.

Want to know another interesting marsupial? Read about its fellow Australian marsupial in our koala facts!

Summary: Essential Wombat Facts

Wombat Profile
Scientific Name:Three species of wombats: Common Wombat (Vombatus ursinus), Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat (Lasiorhinus latifrons), Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat (Lasiorhinus krefftii)
Phylum:Chordata
Class:Mammalia
Order:Diprotodontia
Family:Vombatidae
Genus:Vombatus, Lasiorhinus
Subspecies:Three subspecies of Common Wombats: Bass Strait Wombat (V. u. ursinus), Hirsute Wombat (V. u. hirsutus), Tasmanian Wombat (V. u. tasmaniensis). The other two are monotypic species.
Physical Characteristics
Size:Around 3.3 feet (1 meter)
Weight:42-88 lb (19-40 kg)
Distinctive Characteristics:Broad head, small eyes, pouch facing backward, short legs with strong claws
Habitat and Range
Habitat:Forests, mountains, and grasslands
Range:Mainly south-eastern Australia and Tasmania
Conservation Status
Status:Common Wombat: Least Concern, Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat: Near Threatened, Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat: Critically Endangered
Threats:Habitat loss, road accidents, disease, invasive introduced species (such as foxes and rabbits)
Initiatives:Legally protected in Australia, Recovery planning & on-ground actions for Northern Hairy-nosed wombats, breeding in captivity for Southern Hairy-nosed wombats, monitoring of populations, education and awareness-raising campaigns about wombats and their conservation.

Wombat Common Questions and Answers

These Are Some of the Most Common Questions People Ask About Wombats with Answers:

  • What do wombats eat? - Wombats are herbivores, primarily eating grasses, sedges, herbs, bark, and roots.
  • What is the average lifespan of a wombat? - Wild wombats typically live up to 15 years, while captive wombats can live up to 30 years.
  • How fast can wombats run? - Wombats can reach a top speed of up to 25 mph (40 km/h) in short bursts when threatened.
  • Why do wombats have cube-shaped poop? - The unique shape helps mark territory and prevent droppings from rolling away.
  • How do wombats defend themselves? - They use their strong hindquarters, which have a toughened shield of skin, to block their burrow entrances or crush potential predators against the roof of their burrow.
  • Do wombats carry their young in a pouch? - Yes, similar to kangaroos, female wombats have a pouch facing backward in which they carry their young until they are about 6 months old.
  • Where can wombats be found in the wild? - Wombats are endemic to Australia and can be found primarily in the south-eastern regions and Tasmania.
  • Are wombats dangerous to humans? - While generally peaceful, wombats may attack if they feel threatened or cornered, using their sharp teeth and claws. But generally, they prefer to avoid conflict.

14 More Wombat Facts In Detail

wombat on green field
Photo by Meg Jerrard on Unsplash.

1. There are three wombat species.

Three wombat species live on the edges of Australia and nearby islands: the common wombat, the northern hairy-nosed wombat, and the southern hairy-nosed wombat.

First, Common Wombats are heavy, weighing 44 to 77 pounds. They prefer Southern and Eastern Australia's rolling, brisk regions and some nearby islands. It is also called the bare-nosed wombat.

Next is the critically endangered Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat, which lives in Queensland's tiny Epping Forest National Park in Queensland. It weighs between 55 to 88 pounds.

Finally, weighing between 42 and 71 pounds, the threatened Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat is a survivor of the arid expanses of southern South Australia and Western Australia.

2. Wombats are burrowing masters.

wombat on grass
Photo by rloosli on Pixabay.

These short-legged marsupials with powerful claws are among the animal kingdom's best engineers. They build intricate underground mazes between 10 and 100 feet long and 11.5 feet deep. These cool and damp burrows protect them from predators and harsh weather. Moreover, wombat burrows become a refuge for other wildlife during wildfires.

3. Wombats finish digesting food after 14 days.

These burrowing herbivorous mammals eat mainly roots, grasses, and bark, which are plentiful but not rich in nutrients. To help them maximize their food, wombats have evolved a digestive system that's unlike any other in the animal kingdom. 

Their metabolism moves at a snail's pace, taking up to two weeks to process food fully. Wombats squeeze every possible nutrient from their food by extending digestion, turning a low-quality diet into a sustainable energy source.

4. Wombats' teeth grow non-stop.

As obligate grazers, wombats have continuously growing incisors and molars1. Their incisors and powerful jaws tear apart plant material into bite-sized pieces. Meanwhile, their broad, flat molars act like an industrial grinder, turning the plant material into a paste.

5. Wombats excrete cube-shaped poop.

wombat's side view
Photo by PenelopePitstop on Pixabay.

Here's a surprising and unique wombat fact: They poop cubes! A study reveals that certain parts of their intestines are thicker and stiffer3.

These sections contract quickly, forming the cube's corners, while softer regions contract slower, which helps maintain the shape. This cube design helps wombats mark territories and attract mates without the risk of their droppings rolling away.

6. Wombats are solitary animals.

Wombats value their solitude above all else. Their meticulously crafted and painstakingly maintained burrows are their castles. When the sun sets, wombats cautiously venture out to forage.

While wombats are solitary, they are not antisocial animals. They are willing to share feeding grounds, paths, and, occasionally, even the comfort of a burrow, especially during the breeding season. 

7. Wombats defend themselves with their bottoms.

wombat crawling
Photo by LuvCoffee on Pixabay.

The wombat employs its rear end, specifically the end of its spine, to protect itself against predators seeking to invade its burrow. Rather than retreating deeper into its burrow, the quick-witted wombat uses its rump to block the entrance. Its skin is as thick as old boots, covering a series of vertebrae fused into a rigid plate, making it a barrier and fortress in one.

8. Wombats can run faster than humans.

Despite looking bulky and walking with a shuffling gait, wombats can run up to 40 km/h (25 mph). This impressive pace can certainly catch humans off guard.

Their short but muscular legs allow wombats to escape swiftly when necessary. Moreover, their legs stabilize them while running, enabling them to maintain momentum.

9. Wombats help make the soil fertile.

wombat's close up view
Photo by pen_ash on Pixabay

As wombats dig, they blend rich topsoil with less fertile subsoil, spreading nutrients across different soil layers and building a foundation for plant growth.

Moreover, their burrowing also lets fresh air seep into the soil areas where plant roots and tiny creatures live. This aeration enables roots to absorb more nutrients and water, resulting in flourishing plant life. Additionally, wombats' unique cube-shaped feces are extra natural fertilizers.

10. Wombats bite during mating.

During mating, wombats like to bite the bottoms of potential mates. Both male and female wombats do this. Researchers from sunny Queensland have found that the female Southern hairy-nosed wombat bites the males when they're most fertile.

The researchers speculate that this biting behavior might be how male and female Southern hairy-nosed wombats signal their readiness to mate2

11. Baby wombats stay in their mother's backward pouch for six months.

mother and baby wombat
Photo by Squirrel_photos on Pixabay.

Baby wombats, also known as joeys, are the size of a jellybean. They instinctively clamber into their mother's unique pouch and latch onto a teat for nourishment. Unlike other marsupials, their pouches are facing backward.

Over the next six months, the pouch transforms into a nurturing cocoon for the single baby wombat. Even though the joey begins to explore the world outside the pouch, it still returns regularly for the warmth and sustenance it provides. This dependence lasts for about a year.

12. Wombats live long lives.

Unlike many marsupial counterparts, wombats can live for up to 15 years in their natural habitat. Wild wombats' lifespan results from their slow metabolic rate, presence of predators, and food availability.

On the other hand, wombats in captivity can often live beyond 20 years. This controlled environment allows for consistent veterinary care, a reliable food supply, and the absence of natural threats. Notably, zoological parks and sanctuaries like the Epping Forest National Park are lifelong homes for these resilient marsupials, illuminating their life cycles.

13. Northern hairy-nosed wombats are critically endangered.

wombat near a log
Photo by pen_ash on Pixabay.

Unlike the common wombat, the Northern hairy-nosed wombat is among the world's most endangered large mammals. Habitat loss, food competition, and predation have reduced their numbers drastically. Fortunately, the Australian government has prioritized these wombats in its conservation efforts. 

They have established protected areas and started captive breeding programs, providing hope for the future of these wombats. However, climate change, their nocturnal behavior, and other challenges pose significant obstacles to their conservation. 

14. Australians celebrate Wombat Day.

On October 22, Australia celebrates Wombat Day, a tradition that began in 2005 with the efforts of dedicated wombat enthusiasts. It has become a nationwide event that draws participants from all over the country.

Wombat Day is a day of action, learning, and community. Educators in classrooms across Australia spark curiosity about wombats and instill respect for them and their environments. Art competitions allow individuals of all ages to express their admiration for wombats through creative works.

Furthermore, fans who buy wombat-themed merchandise also support essential conservation efforts. Proceeds from sales directly aid in protecting wombat habitats and rescuing and caring for injured or orphaned wombats. Additionally, some wildlife parks and zoos offer unique encounters with wombats, giving visitors a rare glimpse into the animals' world.

What are your favorite wombat facts? Remember to share it with your friends!

Related: To further explore the animal kingdom, check out some of the other animals that start with W.

1

Fraser, R., Grün, R., Privat, K., & Gagan, M. K. (2008). Stable-isotope microprofiling of wombat tooth enamel records seasonal changes in vegetation and environmental conditions in eastern Australia. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 269(1–2), 66–77.

2

Swinbourne, A. M., Phillips, C. J. C., Janssen, T., Lisle, A., Keeley, T., & Johnston, S. R. D. (2018). Reproductive biology of captive female southern hairy-nosed wombats (Lasiorhinus latifrons). Part 2: oestrous behaviour. Reproduction, Fertility and Development.

3

Yang, P., Lee, A. B., Chan, M., Kowalski, M. P., Qiu, K., Waid, C., Cervantes, G., Magondu, B., Biagioni, M., Vogelnest, L., Martin, A. M., Edwards, A., Carver, S., & Hu, D. L. (2021). Intestines of non-uniform stiffness mold the corners of wombat feces. Soft Matter, 17(3), 475–488.

By Mike Gomez, BA.

Mike is a degree-qualified researcher and writer passionate about increasing global awareness about climate change and encouraging people to act collectively in resolving these issues.

Fact Checked By:
Chinny Verana, BSc.

Photo by pen_ash on Pixabay
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