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Facts About Aardvarks

Last Reviewed and Updated on February 17, 2023

Aardvarks are animals that are not often talked about, but they are one of the most unique animals on the planet. They even have a fruit named after them. Learn some interesting facts about aardvarks, from their surprising size to their picky diet.

1. The name aardvark means earth pig

Starting this list of facts about aardvarks is their name origin. The name aadvark is Afrikaans. It comes from the earlier Afrikaans aardvark which means something along the lines of “earth pig” or “ground pig”.

They are also commonly called the ant bear.

2. It’s the only species in its order

They may look like an anteater, a pig, and a kangaroo thrown together into one, but they aren’t closely related to any of those. They are the only living species of the order Tubulidentata, an order of mammals.

Like the platypus, these animals are considered “living fossils”.

3. They can eat up to 50.000 insects in one night

They are nocturnal animals, spending most of the night in search of food. These animals forage large areas of land each night, in ranges of 6.2 to 18.6 mi / 10 to 30 km. Once they find ants or termites they will dig through their mounds and lick up the insects with their sticky tongue. They may eat up to 50.000 insects in one night.

4. To escape predators, they dig or run fast and zig-zag

While they normally don’t move around fast they are fast runners. They are also really fast diggers and will dig to escape their predators. If all else fails, they will also attack their predators and are capable of causing substantial damage to their attackers.

5. They have unique teeth

It’s because of their unique, tubule-style teeth that the order this animal belongs to is called Tubildentata. Their teeth don’t have a pulp cavity; instead, each tooth has a cluster of thin tubes of vasodentin (modified dentin). The teeth have no enamel and regrow as they get worn down. They are also born with incisors and canines which fall out and aren’t replaced.

6. They are big

It’s easy to imagine aardvarks as small animals, but in reality, they are quite big; an adult aardvark is usually 3.44-4.27 feet / 105-130 cm long and weighs anywhere between 130-180 lb / 60 to 80 kg. If you include their tail, they can be up to 7 ft 3 inch / 2.2 m long.

7. They are great swimmers

They are known to be good swimmers, both in calm waters and in strong currents.

8. They have 4 toes on the front feet and 5 on back

During evolution, they lost the “thumb” on their front feet, so their front feet only have 4 toes while their back feet have 5.

Think this is odd? You’re going to love our list of weird animal facts.

9. They dig underground burrows

Aardvarks can dig extremely fast. They live in the burrows they make, usually having one main burrow where they will live most of the time, as well as many other smaller burrows where they can rest when they need to.

10. They only eat insects and aardvark cucumbers

Aardvarks feed almost exclusively on ants and termites. There is one exception, they eat a fruit called the aardvark cucumber. The cucumber and aardvark have a symbiotic relationship, the fruit’s seeds get a fertility boost in the animal’s intestine, and it relies on an aardvark to spread the seeds. And the aardvark gets the moisture it needs from the fruit. One of the coolest facts about aardvarks.

11. Their tongues are pretty long

Their sticky tongues have an impressive length. The tongue can measure up to 12 inches / 30 cm long.

12. They have a keen sense of smell and very good hearing

They have one of the best (if not even the best) senses of smell in the animal kingdom.

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