Burrowing Animals: Top 10 Largest Burrowers In The World


Burrowing animals, as their name suggests, excavate underground tunnels to create space suitable for habitation, temporary refuge, or as a byproduct of locomotion.

Many kinds of small animals, such as moles, voles, chipmunks, and rats, make holes in the ground. However, when it comes to digging, the small animals aren’t the real earth’s movers and shakers.

The following is a list of 10 largest borrowers in the world that can burrow underground tunnels in the most challenging terrain:

10. Coypu

Burrowing Animals

The Coypu is a large herbivorous, semiaquatic rodent. The coypu lives in burrows alongside stretches of water and feeds on river plant stems. Coypu will dig their own burrow, or use an abandoned burrow or lodge of a beaver or muskrat.

Burrow entrances are often a foot or two beneath the water’s surface and as much as two feet in diameter. Burrows tunnels are 3 to 18 feet long and range from a simple, short tunnel with one entrance to complex systems with several tunnels and entrances at different levels.

9. Common Wombat

Burrowing Animals

Australia has three species of wombat: the common wombat, northern hairy-nosed wombat, and southern hairy-nosed wombat. Common wombats, also known as bare-nosed wombats, have a barely pointed nose, small ears, and coarser brown fur.

They average about 30kg in weight. Common wombats are nocturnal during the summer, but in winter often come out of their burrows during the day to feed and sun themselves.  den nearly anywhere that is dry, sheltered, and safe. Their den sites include burrows dug by other mammals, rock crevices, hollow stumps, logs and trees, woodpiles, and spaces in or under buildings.

8. Mongoose

Burrowing Animals

Mongooses are weasel-like creatures that belong to the group of Carnivores. They are particularly known for its fondness of fighting and eating poisonous snakes, such as cobras.

Mongooses range in weight from the common dwarf mongoose, at 320 g, to the cat-sized white-tailed mongoose, at 5 kg (11 lb). Mongooses use various types of dens for shelter including termite mounds. They will also live in rock shelters, thickets, gullies, and warrens under bushes.

7. Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombat

Burrowing Animals

The Northern hairy-nosed wombat is one of the rarest land mammals in the world and is critically endangered. They are also the largest of the three wombat species, averages about 32 kg and reaches more than one meter in length.

They den nearly anywhere that is dry, sheltered, and safe. Northern hairy-nosed wombats require deep sandy soils, in which to dig their burrows, and a year-round supply of grass, which is their primary food.

6. Red Fox

Burrowing Animals

Red foxes are the most widely distributed carnivores in the world and the most well-known species of foxes. They are about three feet long and two feet tall. Red Foxes are predominantly nocturnal.

During the day, they rest in grain fields, hedges, subterraneous dens they may share with badgers, drainage tubes, etc. The young are usually born in a subterraneous den.

5. European Otter

Burrowing Animals

The European otter is the most widely distributed otter species being widely spread across Europe. They are strongly territorial animals and spend much of their day in tunnels and dens keeping cool and searching for food at night.

European Otter lives in a variety of aquatic habitats including lakes, streams, rivers, and marshes. They usually burrow holes in the riverbank, in order to stay close to the strip between land and water and prefer banks with vegetation.

4. Giant Armadillo

Burrowing Animals

The Giant armadillo is the largest of all armadillo species. On average they weigh around 33 kilograms or even more, and can measure up to 1 meter in length, exclusive of their tails.

They are terrestrial species and are found close to water within undisturbed primary rainforest habitats. It excavates burrows, usually in grasslands or open areas of the forest.

3. North American River Otter

Burrowing Animals

The North American otter has a long, sinuous, streamlined body, highly modified for aquatic life. With an average length of 1.5 meters and weighs more than 14 kg, the North American river otter occurs through much of Canada and the United States.

They live in a wide variety of habitats from rivers, creeks, and streams, to coastal waters, swamps, and lakes. They made dens in riverside burrows, under rocks or vegetation near water, in hollow trees or undercut banks, or even in beaver and muskrat lodges.

2. Aardvark

Burrowing Animals

The aardvark is a medium-sized, burrowing, nocturnal mammal native to Africa. Like the sloth, the aardvark also has a 12-inch (30.5 cm) tongue, which he uses it to reach inside termite and ant hills for a meal. As many as 50,000 can be consumed in one feeding period.

The aardvark can weigh more than 160 lb (72.6 kg) and also dig dark underground burrows to spend the daylight hours to avoid the heat of the day.

Aardvarks can live for up to 23 years in captivity. Its keen hearing ability warns it of predators: lions, leopards, cheetahs, hunting dogs, hyenas, and pythons.

1. Polar Bear

Burrowing Animals

Polar bears are the largest land carnivores in the world, rivaled only by the Kodiak brown bears of southwestern Alaska, and are classified as marine mammals because they spend most of their lives on the sea ice of the Arctic Ocean.

The average height of a polar bear is about 4 feet and 4 inches. However, when it stands on its hind legs the polar bear reaches the height of 7 feet 10 inches to 9 feet 10 inches.

After mating takes place on the sea ice, pregnant female polar bears create maternity dens in earth or snow to give birth and nurture their cubs. To build her den, the female excavates a small snow cave — just large enough for her to turn around in. She then waits for the snow to close the entrance tunnel.

Wild polar bear cubs are most often born in December. The mother along with her cubs remains in the den until March. During her entire time in the den — four to eight months — the mother doesn’t eat or drink. Her sole purpose is to provide for her cub’s food (mother’s rich milk) and warmth.