Solid Defence – Armadillos


There are 20 species of Armadillos in the world as we know today.  Armadillo is Spanish for “little armoured one”. The Nine-banded Armadillo, Dasypus novemcinctus, is the most common, spreading from South America into Kansas in the United States. (National Geographic, 2010) They are most closely related to the Anteater and Sloth, and are said to look like rabbits without its armour.

I have always been amazed by the Armadillo’s head to toe hard and leathery armour. It reminds me of a medieval general’s amour, fully plated and ready for war. Unlike many common animals with innate abilities to evade, escape or camouflage themselves when threatened by predators, Armadillos choose to defend itself by utilising its coarse (and awesome) armour in the face of its adversary. Small as a rabbit, brave as a lion, don’t you think so? The armour of the Armadillo is made up of small plates of bones and covered by a later of horny skin.

Armadillos defend themselves by either:

  • Curling itself into a ball, with the exception of the Nine-banded Armadillo, which only defends itself by wedging its feet deep into the soil and grabbing it so that the surrounding armour touches the ground
  • Running swiftly into thorny bushes where its armour will protect it. (Ever Wonder, 2002)

Did you know that Armadillos are good swimmers too? Well, in a fashion, at least. Armadillos can hold their breaths underwater up to a maximum of six minutes! (J Rank, 2010)You can imagine them as armoured submarines, crossing rivers underwater. Their armour is thick and heavy, so they usually sink when they swim. In order to maintain some buoyancy, they inflate their lungs, stomach and intestines with air, which they would if they were crossing a shallow river.

Given their protective armour, it is not unusual to assume that they are peaceful animals. However, male Armadillos show aggression when they are paired with a female, suggesting that this behaviour only arises so as to retain the exclusive rights to the female counterpart. Females also show aggression when they are defending their current litter and dispersing last year’s young. (Collemen, 1994)


Collemen, M. (1994). Determinants of aggression in Nine-banded Armadillos. Journal of Mammalogy , 189.

Ever Wonder. (2002). Armadillo’s Protective Armour. Retrieved April 7, 2010, from Nine-banded Armadillo – Pictures photos and information:

J Rank. (2010). Armadillos enjoy water. Retrieved April 7, 2010, from Armadillos: Behaviour and reproduction:

National Geographic. (2010). Armadillo. Retrieved April 7, 2010, from National Geographic Animals:

Armadillo,” by Dawn Ashley. Flickr, 30 May 2008. URL:

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