Animal lovers pride themselves on their extensive knowledge of the animal kingdom. If you’re reading this site, chances are that you count yourself among their numbers!
You can probably recognize your fair share of the fauna on Earth—both strange and common. For instance, you’ve heard of aardvarks and you’ve heard of wolves, but there’s one animal you probably haven’t heard about…
Ladies and gentlemen, prepare to meet an aardwolf. They are not aardvarks and they are not wolves, but they are totally awesome—and real.
If you love animals—especially rare ones—prepare to add another to the list: the aardwolf! Believe it or not, in spite of its name, the aardwolf is actually not a wolf at all.
This animal isn’t an aadvark, either. The aardwolves have a special story, and there’s a reason you haven’t heard much about them. As the only surviving species in their family, they are more closely related to hyenas than other animals.
Believe it or not, these cuties feed on insects—mainly termites. They sure would come in handy as a house pet sniffing out those awful bugs in homes, wouldn’t they?
Adult aardwolves are approximately the size of a fox, but that’s where the similarities between those two very different creatures end. Once you spot an aardwolf, it’s hard to forget just how distinctive their appearance really is.
Scientists used to think of them as solitary creatures. That’s because their low numbers and their tendency to be active at night made them difficult for scientists to research. The fact is that they are actually very family-oriented.
Keep going for even more awesome facts about aardwolves!
Aardwolves live as families, and while the size of their packs may vary, they typically include a male, a female, and no more than two of their offspring. Scientists are still trying to figure out is this is coincidental or biologically driven.
They are shy and nocturnal, and they sleep in burrows during the day. They tend to avoid human interaction, though when it comes to interacting with each other, these little guys are as social as they come.
Aardwolves communicate with each other through noises called chirps. They are called “chirps” for a reason, because that’s exactly what they sound like! Once you hear their call, it’s a sound you are unlikely to ever forget.
You wouldn’t know it looking at them, but in addition to all of that chirping, they’ve also got a fierce howl and a scary bark, which they use to intimidate predators. They need these sort of defenses because of their relatively small size.
Aardwolves are also great fighters, as they’re gifted with nimble reflexes and very sharp teeth. So, while these guys might look cute and fluffy, they can more than take care of themselves when push comes to shove.
While they might be distantly related to hyenas, aardwolves aren’t particularly fast runners like their cousins. That’s okay, because they make up for it with their ability to burrow. Rather than run away, they can just hide in a hole!
Oh, did we mention they’re incredibly cute? While that’s not exactly going to protect them from any predators, it’s certainly worth mentioning. Can you imagine ever being lucky enough to spot one of these out in the wild?
Just look at those ears! Besides being adorable, they serve an important function. The aardwolf’s sense of hearing is incredibly powerful. They rely on their large ears to help them detect predators on the move.
In some areas in Eastern Africa, aardwolves are persecuted by farmers who mistakenly believe that they prey on livestock. It’s a real shame that people in these areas don’t know the truth about these sweet creatures…
The fact of the matter is that the presence of aardwolves is actually really beneficial to farmers and their income because they eat termites that are detrimental to crops. They should be praised by the farmers, not persecuted!
Aardwolves have many other different names. They are also known as civet hyenas for the secretions they produce from their anal glands. They’re also called maanhaar jackals. Whatever you call them, there’s no denying that they’re awesome!
Their genus name, Proteles, means “complete in front” and refers to the fact that they have five toes on their front paws and four toes on their back paws. Their species name, cristatus, means “provided with a comb,” in reference to their manes.
Aardwolves have specialized cheek teeth, too. They have strong jaws and canine teeth, but they have an additional set of cheek teeth that look like flattened pegs and are used for eating insects. Aardwolves primarily use their canine teeth for fighting and defense.
Our Wild World
Aardwolves are extremely territorial and will do anything to protect their young. A mating pair of aardwolves has a home range of up to four square kilometers. Both sexes mark their territories with secretions from their anal glands. That might sound disgusting (and it is), but it’s also very effective!
Aardwolves use their manes to appear bigger. If another aardwolf intrudes upon their territory, they will raise their manes as a warning signal and chase the intruder away. If the intruder is caught, which happens rarely, a fight will occur. For the most part, however, they are a peace-loving kind of creature!
Annie Get Your Guns
Aardwolves may be slow-moving, but who cares about speed when you’re this cute! They may be the most adorable creatures most people don’t know even exist.
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