Aardvark – Description, Diet, Habitat, and Facts

By Kevin Myers | 2023 Update

Picture a burrowing mammal with a porcine snout, covered in tough armor-like scales, with long, rabbit-like ears that stand tall to listen for predators. That’s an aardvark, a fascinating creature that lives throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa.

Despite its name, “earth pig“, the Aardvark is not actually a pig at all! In fact, aardvarks share common ancestors with elephants and golden moles.

So, while they may look like a pig with their rotund body and snout, they’re actually more closely related to some pretty remarkable animals.

Scientific ClassificationKingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Tubulidentata
Family: Orycteropodidae
Genus: Orycteropus
Species: O. afer
Physical CharacteristicsLength: 3.3 – 4.3 ft (1-1.3 m)
Weight: 110-180 lbs (50-82 kg)
Color: Brown to grayish-brown
Coat: Sparse hair
Facts– Primarily nocturnal
– Long snout and tubular ears
– Sticky, elongated tongue
– Solitary lifestyle
– Termite and ant diet
LocationSub-Saharan Africa, particularly in savannas, grasslands, woodlands, and bushlands
Conservation StatusLeast Concern (IUCN)
Special Adaptations– Powerful limbs for digging
– Acute sense of smell
– Ability to close nostrils to avoid dust inhalation
– Can consume 50,000 insects per night
Reproduction and Life Cycle– Gestation period: 7 months
– Litter size: 1-2 offspring
– Sexual maturity: 2 years
– Lifespan: 10-23 years in the wild, up to 25 in captivity

Aardvark Pictures & Videos

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What is an Aardvark?

Origin and Evolution

The Aardvark, also known as the antbear, stands out from other mammals due to its unique evolutionary makeup.

Having the highest score for evolutionary distinctiveness, this incredible animal is the sole surviving species of its order, Tubulidentata, with its closest relatives extinct for over two million years!

The Aardvark’s physical attributes are a testament to its ancient origins:

One of its most peculiar features is its teeth, made of the same individual straw-like tubes that hold our teeth in place, and guess what? One aardvark tooth can have up to 1,500 of these small channels.

Despite having only 12-14 primitive teeth, aardvarks are skilled at consuming thousands of ants and termites in one night, thanks to their sticky tongues and proto-gizzard. 

Research shows that the Aardvark’s genes are highly conserved and more similar to the DNA of early mammals than any other living species! 

This fascinating finding suggests that the Aardvark is a living fossil, a remarkable example of an animal that has not evolved much over millions of years.

Physical Features and Adaptations

Aardvarks are one-of-a-kind animals with a striking appearance and specialized adaptations that allow them to thrive in their harsh environment.

They have a stocky build, pinkish-gray or grayish-brown skin, and a short tail. And not to mention the medium-sized, almost hairless body and long snouts that make them resemble pigs. To thrive in their sub-Saharan habitat, Aardvarks have evolved large rabbit ears that disperse heat, sparse body hair, and thick skin that’s impervious to insect bites. Their tubular, rabbit-like ears can stand up or fold flat to keep dirt out when underground. 

One of their best skills, digging, is thanks to the strong claws on each of their spade-like feet and longer hind legs, making them formidable diggers capable of digging vast amounts of earth in record time. Living underground or hunting at night means that aardvarks have poor eyesight, but they make up for it with an excellent sense of smell. This helps them locate prey and sense potential danger. 

All in all, the Aardvark is a remarkable and fascinating creature that never fails to impress.

Distribution and Habitat


Aardvarks are found all over sub-Saharan Africa in all kinds of environments, from dry deserts to moist rainforests. 

The only thing they need (besides lots of grub and water) is some good soil to dig their burrows in.


Aardvarks are amazing at digging in sandy or clay soils, but rocky areas are a real pain in the neck. If the digging conditions aren’t up to snuff, they’ll pack up and move to somewhere better, making their homes anywhere from one to two square miles and up to 33 feet! 

The burrows often have multiple entrances, and interestingly, they always exit headfirst so they can sniff out predators easily!

Yup, these clever little creatures sure know how to use their incredible sense of smell to their advantage.

Behavior and Lifestyle


Aardvarks are mainly solitary and come together only to mate. They’re never found in large groups, preferring to live in underground burrows to protect themselves from the hot daytime sun and predators. Their nocturnal lifestyle means they only leave the safety of their burrow at night when they go in search of food and water.

Aardvarks travel several miles in search of the biggest termite mounds, thanks to their excellent hearing and sense of smell.

Using their long noses and keen sense of smell, Aardvarks sniff out ants and termites, which they lap up in their sticky saliva. Aardvarks also use their long, powerful claws to tear open termite mounds and dig underground burrows to live in.


Aardvarks have a unique lifestyle that revolves around their solitary nature and nocturnal habits. 

These creatures spend most of their time underground in their burrows, only emerging at night to forage for food and water. Although Aardvarks have a large burrow consisting of an extensive network of tunnels, sometimes they make little hideouts nearby in case they need to escape quickly.

Once abandoned, aardvark burrows are recycled by other animals, including reptiles, amphibians, mammals, and birds.

Reproduction and Lifespan


Aardvarks are pretty secretive about their love lives, so not much is known about their mating habits. 

What we do know is that males and females get together for a brief period to mate. After an eight-month gestation period, the female gives birth to a single cub, who weighs in at around six pounds and is totally hairless. Luckily for the little ones, they’re born during the rainy season, when there’s plenty of food available.

For the first two weeks of their lives, the baby aardvark stays safely in the burrow with their mom. After that, they start venturing outside to join her on foraging trips. They’re pretty slow developers and don’t start eating solid food until they’re around three months old – sticking with their mom until they’re six or seven months old until they’re finally ready to strike out on their own and dig their own burrow.


We’re not exactly sure how long Aardvarks live in the wild, but they can stick around for more than 20 years in captivity.

So if you’re ever lucky enough to spot an aardvark out and about (which is pretty rare, considering how nocturnal and solitary they are), take a moment to appreciate the effort it took for that little guy to get there. From their burrow to their first steps, aardvarks have a lot to deal with before they become fully grown and independent.

Eating Habits

Aardvarks may not be the pickiest eaters, but they certainly have their favorite foods. And at the top of that list are termites – these guys are aardvark candy. But they’re not the only thing on the menu. Aardvarks also chow down on ants, beetles, and insect larvae, among other things.

These insectivores have strong limbs and claws that can bust open the hard outer shell of termite mounds with ease. Once they’re in, they use their long, sticky tongue to scoop up the little critters and swallow them whole – no chewing necessary!

One thing that sets aardvarks apart from other insectivores is their columnar cheek teeth which are pretty useless, to be honest. When they come across larger ants that need to be chewed, they use the incisors at the back of their mouth instead.

Aardvarks don’t just stick to above-ground meals, either. They’re experts at breaking into underground ant nests, too. So whether they’re above ground or below, aardvarks are always on the hunt for their next insect meal.

Predators and Threats

Aardvarks may be skilled at avoiding predators, but they’ve got some pretty tough competition out there. 

Lions, leopards, hyenas, and big snakes like pythons are all after these elusive creatures. When they’re threatened, aardvarks don’t mess around – they’ll use their sharp claws to try and fend off the attacker, and they’re not afraid to use those powerful back legs to kick some butt. 

But humans are also a problem for these guys – we hunt them and destroy their homes. It’s definitely tough being an aardvark!

Conservation Status and Life Today

Good news for aardvarks: they’re considered a species of “least concern” by the IUCN, which means their populations are stable. But they still face some serious threats, like habitat loss from agriculture and pesticides killing off their insect prey.

The bushmeat trade in Zambia and Mozambique is also a problem, as some people believe aardvark teeth can ward off sickness. 

And to top it off, climate change is making things worse – droughts can kill off insect populations, which means less food for aardvarks.

Are Aardvarks Anti-Social?

Aardvarks are like the ninjas of the animal world – they’re so stealthy you’d be lucky to catch a glimpse of one. 

They spend most of their time underground and only come out at night to grab a snack. But even though they’re not in direct conflict with humans very often, we’re still causing them some serious problems.

In some places, people hunt aardvarks for food. And to make matters worse, we’re also taking away more and more of their natural habitats. As human populations grow and we expand our settlements, we’re bulldozing right through aardvark territory. 

Aardvark FAQs

Q: Are Aardvarks herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores?

A: Omnivores – they eat both plants and other animals.

Q: How fast is an Aardvark?

A: Aardvarks can run as fast as 25 miles per hour.

Q: What is the scientific name of the aardvark?

A: The scientific name for the aardvark is Orycteropus afer.

Q: What does an aardvark eat?

A: Aardvarks primarily eat ants and termites, using their long, sticky tongue to collect insects from within their mounds. They may also consume other insects, as well as fruits and plants occasionally.

Q: Where can aardvarks be found?

A: Aardvarks are native to Africa and can be found across sub-Saharan Africa, in habitats ranging from grasslands and savannas to woodlands and bushlands.

Q: Are aardvarks solitary or social animals?

A: Aardvarks are solitary animals, typically only coming together to mate. They live in burrows, which they dig themselves using their strong legs and sharp claws.

Q: How do aardvarks communicate with each other?

A: Aardvarks use a range of vocalizations, such as grunting, bleating, and hissing, to communicate with one another. These sounds can be used to convey emotions, warn others of danger, or find mates.

Q: How long do aardvarks live?

A: Aardvarks have a lifespan of about 23 years in the wild, although they can live longer in captivity.

Q: Are aardvarks endangered?

A: Aardvarks are currently listed as a species of “Least Concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to their wide range and stable population. However, they still face threats from habitat loss and hunting.

Q: How do aardvarks defend themselves from predators?

A: Aardvarks rely on their keen sense of smell and hearing to detect predators. If threatened, they can quickly dig a burrow to escape or use their strong limbs and sharp claws to fend off attackers. Their main predators include lions, hyenas, and leopards.

Q: What is the gestation period for an aardvark?

A: The gestation period for an aardvark is approximately seven months. After giving birth, a female aardvark will nurse and care for her single offspring until it is ready to venture out on its own, usually around six months of age.

Q: Aardvark Vs. Armadillo: What are the main differences?

A: Aardvarks and Armadillos have some key differences. Aardvarks are from Africa and belong to the Tubulidentata order, while armadillos are mainly found in the Americas and belong to the Cingulata order. Aardvarks have short fur, while armadillos have a bony armor called osteoderm.

Q: What is the difference between an Anteater and an Aardvark?

A: Anteaters and aardvarks may seem similar with their insect-based diets and smooth skin, but they’re quite different. Anteaters live in Central and South America, while aardvarks are from Africa, and they have different taxonomic classifications. Plus, anteaters don’t have teeth, while aardvarks do.