Are Wombats Friendly? (Can You Pet Them?)

When it comes to the astounding and often surreal wildlife of Australia, wombats are among the most beloved animals. They are round, they look adorable, and you just want to hug them. But should you? Are wombats friendly? 

Unfortunately, not really. Baby wombats live up to their cuddly reputation, but once a wombat has grown up it becomes a solitary animal that just wants to be left alone. Communication between wombats is often threatening or aggressive and they only rarely seek out humans. While they mostly ignore humans and are happy when they are being ignored in return, it sometimes happens that they attack humans. 

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Their primary strategy of attack – if something so direct can be rightfully called a strategy – is to just charge straight at you. They are heavy and their tiny legs are quite strong, so it is quite a frightening experience having this animal run at you at full speed.

Luckily, since they are so small, most of the biting will happen around your shins and ankles. Unless, of course, they manage to tip you over, which is also known to happen! In this case, it is close to impossible to free yourself from the situation alone and all you can do is covering your face and shouting for help – or hoping the wombat loses interest in you.

Since wombats do not jump and climb over things very rarely, the easiest way to keep safe when encountering a wombat that seems aggressive is to get high up. Even just standing on a chair or picnic table is good enough. Wombats can be really fast and run at a speed of 25 miles per hour at short distances, so outrunning them is not really an option. 

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Do Wombats Have Pouches? 

Baby Wombat in a Pouch
Baby Wombat in a Pouch

Kangaroos are most certainly the most famous animals with pouches, but they are not the only ones. The Marsupialia (or Metatheria) contains more than 250 species, like various opossums, wallabies, koalas, and also wombats. When a baby wombat – called a joey – is born it is yet too underdeveloped to be in the outside world.

The joey has no hair and very thin skin and is thus unable to keep itself warm. It is also blind and cannot yet hear. Immediately after birth, a joey crawls into its mother’s pouch and attaches itself to her teats. The southern hairy-nosed wombat has a backward-facing pouch so that the baby is protected from dirt when the mother is digging, and the teats swell so that it does not tumble out of the pouch.

The joey will stay in the pouch for a period of anything between four and ten months. It will learn to leave the pouch for ever longer periods of time, but at the beginning, a joey that is frightened or overwhelmed will return to its mother’s pouch.  

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What Do Wombats Eat? 

Wombats are completely herbivorous, which means that they only eat plants. They are grazers just like sheep or cows, so they eat mostly various grasses and roots, but also mosses, fallen leaves, and fungi. This diet full of tough, fibrous grasses has led to teeth that are interestingly developed and more similar to the teeth of rodents than those of other marsupials.

The plants they eat have often a strongly abrasive effect on their teeth, and to counteract this, a wombat’s teeth keep growing throughout its whole life.  

Do Wombats Have Square Poop? 

Yes, those round creatures defecate little squares! Wombats are better than other animals and humans at extracting nutrients and water from their food, which makes their feces drier and thus more likely to have a clearly defined shape. The cube form is the result of letting the feces dry in the intestines as well as certain muscle contractions. They do, however, have totally normal round buttholes!

Wombat at Narawntapu National Park, Tasmania, Australia
Wombat at Narawntapu National Park, Tasmania, Australia

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Aside from fulfilling curiosity about animal behavior, studying the production of these poop cubes can be useful to develop manufacturing processes for square objects like bricks, researchers say. 

For a long time, scientists have wondered what the reason behind this shapely defecation might be. Recent findings argue that wombats use poop to communicate with one another. They deposit their visually striking poop in tactical areas in their territory to send each other messages. Due to its shape, this territory marker does not roll away. 

Are wombats friendly_ Pin It!
Are Wombats Friendly? Pin It!

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