Wombats are one of the oddest-looking animals on the planet!
There are three species of wombat: common wombat, northern hairy-nosed wombat or yaminon, and Southern hairy-nosed wombat.
All wombat species live in Australia and Tasmania.
They are adaptable and habitat tolerant, and are found in forested, mountainous, and heathland areas.
Wombats are marsupials, related to koalas and kangaroos. Marsupial is a mammal of an order whose members are born incompletely developed and are typically carried and suckled in a pouch on the mother’s belly.
These animals typically live up to 15 years in the wild, but can live past 20 and even 30 years in captivity. The longest-lived captive wombat lived to 34 years of age.
Wombats are heavily built and virtually tailless burrowers with small eyes and short ears.
They are about as big as a medium-size dog, about 1 meter (40 in) in length. They weight from 20 to 40 kilograms (44 to 88 pounds).
Wombats’ fur is either sandy brown or grayish black to blend in with the landscape and avoid predators.
These animals are nocturnal and emerge to feed at night.
Wombats are herbivores; their diets consist mostly of grasses, sedges, herbs, bark, and roots.
Like kangaroos, wombats spend most of their time grazing.
Their incisor teeth somewhat resemble those of rodents (rats, mice, etc.), being adapted for gnawing tough vegetation.
Wombats have an extraordinarily slow metabolism, taking around eight to 14 days to complete digestion, which aids their survival in arid conditions.
They don’t need much water, getting most of their needed moisture from the plants they eat.
Wombats dig extensive burrow systems with their rodent-like front teeth and powerful claws.
Common wombats are solitary and inhabit their own burrows, while other two species may be more social and live together in larger burrow groups. A group of wombats is known as a wisdom, a mob, or a colony.
The common wombat occupies a range of up to 23 hectares (57 acres), while the hairy-nosed species have much smaller ranges, of no more than 4 hectares (10 acres).
Wombats walk with a waddle. They may look pudgy and slow, but they can run up to 40 km/h (25 mph) and maintain that speed for up to 90 seconds.
Wombats communication include vocalizations, aggresive displays, and markings on logs and branches made by rubbing against them repeatedly. Wombats tend to be more vocal during mating season. When angered, they can make hissing sounds. Their call sounds somewhat like a pig’s squeal.
Female wombats give birth to a single young known as a joy in the spring, after a gestation period, which like all marsupials can vary, in the case of the wombat: 20–21 days. When the joey is born, it is the size of a jellybean and not completely developed. The joey climbs into its mother’s pouch right after birth to finish developing and stays there for about five to six months. Wombats are weaned after 15 months.
In 1906, the Australian government declared wombats pests and encouraged people to kill them. From 1925 to 1965, some 63,000 wombat skins were redeemed for cash. Fortunately, this practice has stopped.
All species of wombats are protected in every state except for Victoria.
Even today wombats are considered pests by farmers because they dig in cultivated fields and pastures and because their burrows may harbour rabbits.
Humans can receive puncture wounds from wombat claws, as well as bites. Startled wombats can also charge humans and bowl them over, with the attendant risks of broken bones from the fall.
Depiction of wombats in rock art are exceptionally rare, though examples estimated to be up to 4,000 years old have been discovered in the Wollemi National Park.
The giant wombat, an ancestor of modern-day wombats, lived during the Ice Age and was the size of a rhinoceros.
Since 2005, an unofficial holiday called Wombat Day has been observed on 22 October.
Wombats have featured in Australian postage stamps and coins.