Pig-footed Bandicoot

The Pig-footed Bandicoot (Chaeropus ecaudatus), was small, mostly herbivorous bandicoot of the arid and semi-arid plains of inland Australia. It had a wide range of habitat, from grassy woodland to grassland plains into even desert-like plains. It was studied in the 19th century in much of Australia, and the last specimen was collected in 1901. Aboriginal people claim that the species survived another 20 years or so in South Australia, and even as late as the 1950s in the deserts of Western Australia.

This mammal was about the size of a kitten, and appeared much like a bilby on first sight. It had long, slender limbs, large pointed ears, and a long tail. On closer examination, however, it became apparent that the Pig-footed Bandicoot was very unusual for a marsupial. The forefeet had two functional toes with hoof-like nails, rather similar to a pig or deer. The hind feet had an enlarged fourth toe with a heavy claw shaped like a tiny horses’ hoof, with the other toes being vestigial. Only the second and third toes were useful, and that was for grooming purposes.

A lesser known fact about the pig-footed bandicoot is that two live specimens were once recovered by a man named Gerard Krefft in the late 1800’s. They may have actually been the last of their kind. Unfortunately, Krefft got lost in the desert carrying the two specimens, and out of hunger and desperation, ate them both (This IS actually true, and is stated in Bill Bryson’s “In A Sunburned Country.”).