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28 Giant Armadillo Facts (2 Types) Largest Living and Extinct

What comes to your mind when you picture an armadillo? Perhaps you picture a cute little rolly-polly creature. Today we are going to talk about giant armadillos. While they are cute, they are not little. Here you’ll learn everything you need to know about the giant armadillo. We’ll also talk about its bigger, but extinct, cousin.

Giant armadillos are an endangered species in northern South America. They are omnivores that love termites. Giant armadillos can weigh up to 70 lb and grow 5 ft in length. There are larger, now-extinct armadillos known as glyptodonts. These giants grew 11 ft long and weighed more than 4000 lb.

In this post, you’ll learn about both giant armadillos: current and extinct.

giant armadillo

22 Giant Armadillo Facts (Priodontes maximus)

Here is the overview of the giant armadillo of South America.

  • Latin name: Priodontes maximus
  • Location: Northern half of South America
  • Habitat: Savannahs, tropical rainforests, and arid woodlands
  • Population Status: Vulnerable and declining
  • Length: 5 feet (150 centimeters)
  • Weight: 41-72 pounds (18.7-32.5 kilograms)
  • Diet: Primarily termites
  • Physical features: Grey-brown color, hairless, with bands along its neck and body
  • Lifespan: 12-15 years

1. What is the scientific classification for the largest living armadillo?

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Cingulata
  • Family: Chlamyphoridae
  • Subfamily: Tolypeutinae
  • Genus: Prodontes
  • Species: P. maximus
  • Binomial Name: Priodontes maximus

2. What other names does it go by?

Locally you may hear giant armadillos also called tatou, ocarro, tatu-canastra, tatú carreta, and cachicamo gigante.

3. What does the name armadillo mean?

Armadillo comes from the Spanish word for armor, and can be translated as “little armored one.”

Although, as we’ll see, some armadillos are not all that little.

4. How many species of armadillos are there?

There are 21 living species of armadillos and 9 extinct species.

The largest armadillo in the world is the aptly named Giant Armadillo.

The smallest one is the Pink Fairy Armadillo.

5. Where do giant armadillos live?

Giant armadillos can be found throughout the Northern half of South America.

The 10 countries where armadillos live are:

  1. Argentina
  2. Bolivia
  3. Brazil
  4. Colombia
  5. Ecuador
  6. Guyana
  7. Paraguay
  8. Peru
  9. Suriname
  10. Venezuela

They can live in a variety of habitats, as long as there is a good supply of termites. Some of these habitats include savannahs, tropical rainforests, and arid woodlands.

6. What does a giant armadillo look like? (bands, color, hair)

The giant armadillo has 11 to 13 bands that cover its body, with an additional 3 or 4 bands on its neck. These bands are tough like fingernails, with softer skin in between. These bands are also called plates or carapaces.

Their legs and tail are covered with tough scales called scutes.

The top of their body is a dark brown or grey color. A pale yellow stripe runs along the center of their body toward the bottom of the armored bands.

Unlike some other species of armadillos, giant armadillos are almost entirely hairless, with just a few beige hairs that stick out from under their plates.

7. How many teeth do they have?

The giant armadillo can have up to 100 teeth! That is more than any other land mammal.

8. How long are their claws?

Armadillos have long claws, including a giant central claw on each of their front feet. These huge claws are sickle-shaped, and up to 8.7 inches (22 centimeters) in length.

The giant armadillo has the largest claw-to-body proportion of any mammal.

They use their claws when digging for termites, or when digging their burrows.

9. How much does a giant armadillo weigh?

On average, a fully grown giant armadillo will weigh between 41 and 72 pounds (18.7-32.5 kilograms).

But they have been known to get bigger than that. One armadillo found in the wild weighed in at 119 pounds (54 kilograms).

A giant armadillo kept in captivity grew to 180 pounds (80 kilograms).

10. How long is a giant armadillo?

Including the body and tail, a giant armadillo can grow up to 5 feet (150 centimeters) in length. Its tail makes up a third of that total length (20 inches/ 50 centimeters).

Learn about the largest rainforests in the world.

11. Are giant armadillos blind?

Armadillos are not blind, but they do have poor eyesight. They make up for this with their great sense of smell.

12. What are their burrows like?

Giant armadillos have unusually large burrows. The entrance of their burrow usually faces west. This opening is usually is around 17 inches (43 centimeters) wide.

These armadillos are called “habitat engineers.”

In a 2003 study in the Peruvian Amazon, it was discovered that other animals also use giant armadillo burrows (on the same day).

These animals include dozens of species of birds, reptiles, and mammals (including the rare and adorable short-eared dog).

giant armadillo size

Learn more about other rainforest animals in South America.

13. Are they diurnal or nocturnal?

Giant armadillos are primarily nocturnal. They sleep their days away in their borrows, getting up to 18 hours of sleep a day.

14. What do giant armadillos eat?

Giant armadillos are omnivores, meaning that they eat both meat and plants.

They eat a variety of insects, but their favorite is termites. A hungry armadillo can devour the entire population of a termite mound in one sitting!

Although 90 percent of their diet is made up of insects and larvae, they’ve also been seen eating small vertebrates, snakes, worms, and eggs.

Giant armadillos also snack on plants and fruit.

15. Are giant armadillos social creatures?

They are solitary creatures who only socialize for mating purposes.

Unlike other animals, they do not become aggressive when another armadillo wanders into their territory. Rather, these gentle giants prefer to ignore each other.

16. What do we know about their reproductive cycle?

Giant armadillos are monogamous. Gestation lasts between 4 and 5 months. At the end of this time, a female armadillo will give birth to one, or occasionally two, live babies.

The mother has two teats to provide milk for her child until it is weaned.

17. What do you call a baby armadillo?

Baby armadillos are called pups. When grown, male armadillos are called boars, and females are called sows.

18. Can a giant armadillo swim?

Yes, armadillos can swim surprisingly well. They can also hold their breath for up to 6 minutes if they need to cross a river.

19. What threats does the giant armadillo face?

Like many other animal species, the greatest threat to giant armadillos is humans.

This comes in the form of deforestation, being killed by farmers who do not like their burrows, and being captured for sale in illegal trade. Giant armadillos do not do well in captivity.

20. Can a giant armadillo curl up into a ball?

No, not completely. Of all of the armadillo species, only two can roll up into a spherical ball. Both of those species are three-banded.

21. Is the giant armadillo endangered?

The giant armadillo is listed as vulnerable to extinction (on the IUCN Red List), and its numbers are on the decline.

22. What is the life span of the giant armadillo?

It is thought that their life span is 12-15 years.


6 Extinct Giant Armadillo Facts (Glyptodonts)

  • Latin name: Glyptodontinae subfamily
  • Location: Formerly in South America, and also North America
  • Population Status: Extinct
  • Length: up to 11 feet (3.3 meters)
  • Weight: up to 4,410 pounds (2,000 kilograms)
  • Diet: Plant material
  • Physical features: Armored shell, head-plate, and ringed tail, with stubby legs

Here’s a life-sized model of what this extinct giant armadillo might have looked like.

giant armadillo extinct
Life sized model of the extinct giant armadillo

1. What is the scientific classification for the largest extinct armadillo?

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Cingulata
  • Family: Chlamyphoridae
  • Subfamily: Glyptodontinae
  • Genus: 33 different genera

2. When were glyptodonts alive?

These giants among armadillos were thought to have lived starting around 20 million years ago during the Miocene era.

One of the earliest glyptodonts was the Parapropalaehoplophorus septentrionalis.

They became extinct 10,000 years ago, at the end of the last ice age. Although some argue that they co-existed with humans for some time.

3. How many different genera of glyptodonts were there?

So far 33 different types of glyptodonts have been discovered. The most well know is the Glyptodon.

But just like other extinct animals, hidden fossils may reveal new discoveries.

4. What did they look like?

Rather than having individual bands of armored plates, the glyptodonts were protected by tortoise-like body armor.

Unlike tortoises, they could not withdraw their heads into their shells. Instead, they had a bony, armored cap at the top of their heads. They had long tails, covered with rings of body plates.

They had stubby legs, and short necks.

There was variation between the different genera of glyptodonts. For example, the Doedicurus had a spikey tail shaped like a mace (similar to the much earlier Ankylosaurus dinosaur).

5. How big were they?

Some of the larger glyptodonts were as big as a car, weighing up to 4,410 pounds (2,000 kilograms)!

They could reach lengths of 11 feet (3.3 meters).

They were also pretty tall, standing at 4.9 feet (1.5 meters)

6. What did glyptodonts eat?

Based on their teeth, we can extrapolate that the glyptondonts were herbivores.

They did not have any incisor or canine teeth, used for tearing flesh. But they did have cheek teeth, useful for grinding up tough grasses.

Your Turn:

Which giant armadillo fact was your favorite? Do you have a fact to add to my list? Please let me know in the comments below.


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