Big Hairy Armadillo, Chaetophractus villosus

The big hairy armadillo (Chaetophractus villosus), also known as the large hairy armadillo, is a species that can be found in South America. Its range extends from the Pampas and Patagonia south to Magallanes, Chile and Santa Cruz, Argentina, but it can also be found in the Gran Chaco Province of Bolivia, Paraguay. Because this species adapts relatively easily and it has not lost as much territory as other species, it has been able to remain farther south than other armadillos. It prefers to reside in a number of habitats including savannahs, grasslands, forests, and even agricultural areas.

The big hairy armadillo is a large species, reaching an average body length between 10 to 13 inches and an average weight of 4.4 pounds. The head and body are covered by thick protective plates that are mobile along the back due to flexible bands.  The hair that occurs along its body is longer than that of other hairy armadillos and is the trait from which it received its common name. Because it shares its range with the screaming hairy armadillo, the two species can be confused, but its size and other factors help distinguish it from its smaller relative.

The big hairy armadillo is typically active during the dusk and nighttime hours, but it will forage for insects and worms during the day if necessary. Its strong front claws allow it to burrow into the sand when searching for food, or making its home. It has adapted to an underground lifestyle, which keeps it cool and helps it avoid predators, and it is able to breathe while completely submerged in dirt by filtering air from the particles around it. Its home burrows are typically large and contain many entrances and rooms. The breeding season of this species occurs during the late winter months or early spring months, although captive individuals have been known to breed throughout the year. Females give birth to one or two young after a pregnancy period that lasts between 60 to 75 days and young are weaned at about 80 days of age.

The big hairy armadillo holds a large range and is able to persist in a number of habitats. It is thought that its population numbers are increasing, despite a routine amount of hunting for various reasons. Because of these factors, the big hairy armadillo does not require any conservation efforts and appears on the IUCN Red List with a conservation status of “Least Concern.”

Image Caption: Picture taken in the zoo of Wrocław (Poland): Chaetophractus villosus (Desmarest, 1804). Credit: Guérin Nicolas/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)