Large hairy armadillo (Chaetophractus villosus)

Spanish: Peludo
GenusChaetophractus (1)
SizeHead-body length: 261 – 344 cm (2)

The large hairy armadillo is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The largest representative of the genus Chaetophractus (2), the large hairy armadillo (Chaetophractus villosus) is the most common armadillo species in Argentina (1). Like all armadillos, the body and head of this species are extensively armoured with thick bony plates (3), with the head plate being particularly large (2).The central portion of the body shell is divided by bands of skin that provide flexibility to the otherwise rigid upperparts (3). More hairy than most armadillo species (hence its common name), the underparts of this species are densely covered with whitish or light brown hairs, while long, coarse hairs project from the body armour plates (3).

The large hairy armadillo is found in the Gran Chaco region of Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina, and also occurs south through Argentina to the provinces of Santa Cruz and Magallanes (1). It is also found in eastern Chile from the provinces of Bío-bío, south to Aisén (2), and has been introduced to Tierra del Fuego (1). This species ranges from sea-level, up to elevations of 1,300 metres (1).

Occupying a wide variety of habitats, the large hairy armadillo can be found in grasslands, savanna, forest and agricultural areas (1).

A powerful digger (3), the large hairy armadillo either builds simple burrows for temporary shelter or more complex branching burrows where it resides for longer periods (4). Activity usually commences at dusk and continues throughout the night, although some daytime activity may also occur in some areas (5). A variety of prey is taken, in particular, subterranean invertebrates, which are located by smell and exposed by shovelling soil away using the head and powerful fore claws (3) (5).

When threatened, the large hairy armadillo will run towards the nearest hole, or attempt to burrow into the ground. If, however, it is unable to escape, this species will draw up its feet, so that the bottom of the shell is level with the ground. When pursued into its burrow, the large hairy armadillo will wedge itself tightly against the walls, by bending its back and thrusting out its feet (3). While underground, this species is able to make use of the small amounts of oxygen trapped between soil particles; small skin folds act as a filter to prevent soil from being inhaled into the lungs (6).

Although the large hairy armadillo is likely to breed during late winter/early spring in the wild (3) (5), most information about its reproductive biology currently comes from observations of captive animals (4). In captive conditions, this species breeds all year round and can have up to three litters per year (7). After a gestation period of 60 to 75 days, the female usually gives birth to two young, which are suckled for a further 50 to 60 days (3) (4). The large hairy armadillo reaches sexual maturity at around nine months old, and has been known to live for over 23 years in captivity (3).

Despite being hunted locally for sport, food and for making musical instruments, as well as being deliberately persecuted as an agricultural pest, there appears to be little threat to the large hairy armadillo’s survival at present. Although comprehensive surveys are lacking, the extremely wide distribution of this species is indicative that it has a large population, which is resilient against its exploitation (1).

While there are currently no specific conservation measures in place for the large hairy armadillo, it is known to occur in many protected areas (1).

Learn more about conservation initiatives within the large hairy armadillo's range:

Authenticated (09/07/2009) by Dr. Mariella Superina, Chair of the IUCN/SSC Anteaters, Sloths and Armadillos Specialist Group.

  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2009)
  2. Eisenberg, J.F. and Redford, K.H. (1999) Mammals of the Neotropics: The central neotropics: Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
  3. Nowak, R.M. (1999) Walker's Mammals of the World. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
  4. Abba, A.M., Udrizar Sauthier, D.E. and Vizcaíno, S.F. (2005) Distribution and use of burrows and tunnels of Chaetophractus villosus (Mammalia, Xenarthra) in the eastern Argentinean pampas. Acta Theriologica, 50: 115 - 124.
  5. Superina, M. (2009) Pers. comm.
  6. Affanni, J.M., Garcia Samartino, L., Casanave, E.B. and Dezi, R. (1987) Absence of apnea in armadillos covered by soil. Respiration Physiology, 67: 239 - 245.
  7. Ratajszczak, R. and Trzesowska, E. (1997) Management and breeding of the Larger Hairy Armadillo, Chaetophractus villosus, at Pozan Zoo. Zoologischer Garten, 67: 220 - 228.