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Can Armadillos Swim?
Posted on Monday, June 20, 2011 by eNature

Common across much of the Southeastern United States, armadillos attract a bit of a cult following of their oddly appealing appearance and lifestyle.

From an engineering standpoint, the armadillo is an exceptional creature.

The heavy plates that cover its head, torso, and tail are unique among North American mammals and present foes with a formidable barrier. And since the plates are jointed across the animal’s midsection, the armadillo can curl itself into a ball for added protection.

But what happens to the armadillo when it hits the water? Do those same heavy plates become a burden?  Does this unusual mammal sink or swim?

The correct answer is both, sometimes.  Just as it’s evolved armor for protection, the armadillo has come up with a unique way to carry that weight while in the water.

When small streams and ponds must be crossed, the armadillo compensates for the excess weight of its plates by taking deep gulps of air to inflate its intestines. Thus inflated, the intestines make the armadillo buoyant enough to swim short distances.

And if gulping additional air is just too much work, the armadillo can simply walk across the bottom of the stream or pond like a deep-sea diver wearing lead weights.

So next time you see an armadillo around water, keep an eye out and see which option is uses.

P.S. Here’s a bonus fact— the name “armadillo” originated with the Spanish conquistadores who named it “the little man in armor”.

Ever seen an armadillo in the wild?  Please share your stories with us below.



When my daughter was a child we were driving through a state park and there was an armadillo along the side of the road; she asked that we stop so she could pet it so we did and she got out and went over to it and petted it ...

Posted by A Poire on 6/21

I was sitting on a stump in light snow while my daughter was deer hunting in South Arkansas when an armadillo came out of its hole under the stump.  Knowing that the armadillo had poor eyesight, I sat still.  The armadillo walked up to my boot, stopped dead still, sniffed at the boot, slowly backed away and crept back into it hole.  Did you know that armadillos have identical quarduplets with each birth?
Armadillos are not to be petted or handled.  Recent discoveries confirm that they are carriers of leprosy.  It was the animal used to do research on leprosy when researching for the cure.

Posted by Fred Robinson on 6/21

About 30 years ago I was camping in Huntsville, Texas with my husband, and a some friends, my son (who was about 12 at the time) was with us also and had a friend staying with him in a little pup tent. We awoke about 2:00 AM in the morning to loud thrashing noises, which had everyone scared and hollering what is it, my son started hollering that there was a bear close to their pup tent.  My husband grabbed a flashlight and we raced to my son’s tent to rescue him from the bear and to his embarrasement and to everyone’s relief, there was an armadillo trying to get into my son’s backpack that he had left outside his tent which contained snacks.

Posted by Earla Hollon on 6/21

I was walking my doberman Ceaser in the woods on a leash along a stream in Lakewood Ranch Florida when suddenly I spotted a mother armadillo with several babies(not sure what baby armadillos are caled) when suddenly she spotted us,  she jumped straight up and down in the air   3 or 4 times then charged us,  babies behind her.  We took off running and for several yards she was very fast-quite the sprinter.  Never had that happen before or since!

Posted by Linda Esten on 6/21

Armadillos are known to give leprosy to people, who handle these animals or eat their meat.

Posted by Khoi on 6/21

how did armadillos cross the Mississippi river to populate the Southeastern states? Or were they already in Florida?

Posted by Erwin Mangrum on 6/21

I found an armadillo in my swimming pool one night and he definitely could not swim.  He was going in somersaults around and around in the water.  I fished him out with a net and he waddled away and seemed to be ok.

Posted by Dawna Falso on 6/21

Wikipedia info;

Posted by A Poire on 6/21

It is a shame that the “Big” talk is about how the Armadillo will give you Leprosy.  Yes, it is true they CAN carry and pass on Leprosy, but Leprosy is no longer a dreaded disease.  It can be cured by antibiotics.  AND, Leprosy is in the ground - you are more likely to get Leprosy from walking barefooted than touching an Armadillo.  And, your immune system must be very low, or you have other health problems that can make you subseptible to getting Leprosy.
The Armadillo is a very amazing and helpful creature.  And, like Bats - has a very bad reputation spread by people that don’t know what they are talking about.

Posted by Suzy Heck - HECKHAVEN WILDLIFE REHAB. CTR. on 6/21

I too work in wildlife rehab.  My report on leprosy came from a friend at the Center for Disease Control.  They reported several new cases in the South this Spring and suggested people keep their children away from armadillos..
Me, I like box turtles.  I was my hands to control the salmanella.  I appreciate all who work in wildlife rehab.
Manager, Ouachita Mountains Biological Station, retired

Posted by Fred Robinson on 6/21

I live with armadillo “friends” in my Florida garden.  The little buggers love to root things up.  And sometimes I catch them rolling in the dirt.  A few have blundered over my feet as I stood still, watching them.  They really are cute, even if destructive.  Daddy used to say they were “just trying to earn an honest living”.

Posted by Priscilla Hale on 6/21

I live in FLorida in a sort of nature friendly neighborhood surrounded by woods.  We have deer, eagles, etc.  Yesterday My two small dogs just discovered five baby Armadillos in our back yard.  The dogs are fascinated and do not harm them - just circle them sniffing and watching.  I have taken many photos of the little cuties…going in and out of their burrow under one of our plant benches…but have to step around all the new little holes in the yard.  We figure they belong here just as much as we do.

Posted by Bettianne Ford on 6/21

I am so happy to read so many posts from people who respect and even like the little critters…people around here like to shoot them.  I feel all creatures have a right to live and because we are bigger and have weapons does not make us more worthy to take resources from the earth. “Nothing on the earth doth live that doth not some special goodness give.”

Posted by Candace Seaton on 6/21

I have several armadillos that live in my yard. One has made a burrow that is right near my back door, but unfortunately I haven’t seen it yet. When I have holes in my backyard I don’t know who to blame it on, my dog or the armadillo.

Posted by Becky Ruta on 6/21

Many People don’t like them because they tear up yards.  They tunnel under and dig up plants, grass, etc.,
But what most people don’t understand (or know) is that they are doing you a big favor.  Armadillos eat grubs.  And, what do grubs eat? Roots. They are eating the roots that support and allow your plants & grass to live and grow.  Without roots your garden/yard would die.  If you didn’t have grubs - you wouldn’t have the Armadillos digging up your yard.  Those pesky Armadillos are alerting you to a potential dead plants/yard within a few months if you do not get rid of the grubs. Plus the armad’s are airiating your dirt which will be very benificial to your plants once you get rid of the grubs. Check with your nursery as to what to use for grubs.

Posted by Suzy Heck - HECKHAVEN WILDLIFE REHAB. CTR. on 6/21

I live in Florida and have had three armadillo burrows under my house.  I don’t know if the wall cracking is from the sink hole activity or the armadillo burrows.  I have used humane traps to relocate them out of my neighborhood (though they are not easy to trap and I more often catch opossums and raccoons). They are out and about most early mornings. I don’t mind the rooting around the flower beds, but the burrows under the house are destructive.  Not to mention they break the termite barrier around the house as well.

Posted by Barbara on 6/21

One summer when my family and I were camping in East Texas near Palestine, we saw a mother and her young as we hiked into a clearing in the midst of a lush forest.  They were on/in a rotting log.  We watched for a while and were tempted to go closer, but my own little ones grew restless to see another part of the forest.

Posted by Cece Cope on 6/21


Posted by CLAUDE COVINGTON on 6/22

After driving through Southern Louisiana many times and observing the nighttime activity along the highway I have come to the conclusion that armadillos have the odd habit of sleeping in the middle of the roadway, on their back, with their feet straight up in the air. Weird animal.

Posted by Milt Jines on 6/22

My grandfather use to tell me stories about during the Depression of 1930’s how armadillos were hunted for food and were called “Hoover Hogs”.

Posted by Frank Carpenter on 6/22

The odd-seeming behavior of lying on their backs on the road; with their feet up…may stem from a use of their plates as energy collectors, even though they are warm-blooded. The solar energy of the day held in the roadway surface til well into the wee hours…probably feels good on their backs, but also probably gives them a lift of warming them up during a break from their dewey rooting grub-grabbing night shifts.
There is a funny story among a nomadic tribe I am connected with: it involves someone who was out on a moonlit mushroom hunt in a clearing amidst the woods in Texas…the biped mushroom harvester had just spotted and begun moving toward an especially large and elegant shroom when suddenly they heard a sort of small crashing thundering coming toward them out of the woods…and an armadillo came racing past them, snatched th mushroom off its’ base, and galloped on into the cover of the thicker underbrush into the night, as the human stood thunderstruck. So…there may be more complex and unexpected answers to why armadillos might lay back on the warm open-to-the-sky roads at night…watching the star shows…

Posted by Peter on 6/22

I’ve heard tales of armadillos banding together in packs and hunting and killing deer.

Posted by Jim on 6/23

Thanky, thanky Peter, for your “report” about armadillos ... it all makes sense now.  I’ve also heard the restaurants that serve possum sometimes substitute armadillo to their more discriminating customers because they can charge more for “POSSUM ON THE HALF-SHELL.”

Posted by Milt Jines on 6/23

I stopped at a Florida Turnpike service plaza a few months ago and there was a van with a big open-topped metal basket attached to the hitch on the back. The basket had about 15 armadillos in it. I couldn’t tell if they were alive or dead because I was driving by and in a hurry. Strange!

Posted by John Pilger on 6/23

I forgot to mention in my last post that some species of armadillos normally and always give birth to quintuplets. The embryo divides in early development to produce four identical offspring. Also, the uterus has four “chambers” to acommodate the development of each of the embryos.

Posted by John Pilger on 6/23

Has anyone ever heard of an Armadillo using it’s snout as a battering ram?  A friend of mine suspects Armadillo’s are being cornered by his cat and the Armadillo charging the cat and leaving bruise on it that resemble the end of the Armadillo’s nose!  Could happen I guess but I always felt like they would coward down and protect themselves!

Posted by larry muse on 6/23

While camping with my girl scout troop in florida we came across an Armadillo rooting through an ant mound.  We formed a horse shoe shape, very quietly, to watch.  At the end of the horse shoe was our youngest camper.  The Armadillo didn’t even realize we were there until one of the girls moved and the Armadillo yanked it’s head up and took off knocking over our youngest and ran right over her.  It was so funny. Poor Marlory just cried.

Posted by Michelle Crawford on 6/23

I’ve had more than one bow hunt for deer upset by the rooting armadillos. The deer will circle around the noise.

Posted by Fred Turner on 6/23

Hey Milt Jones, those Armadillos that are sleeping in the road on their backs are reffered to as “Armadillos on the half shell”.

Posted by Steve Frith on 6/23

There’s an armadillo in my neighborhood in Garland, Texas.  I’ve seen it a couple of times and I’ve sure seen evidence of it finding grubs (or whatever) in my yard! Holes everywhere—much deeper than the ones the squirrels make. Since I walk my dog late, she’s the one who alerts me to the shuffling little critter.  Well, sorta big critter. The dog got a little more interested than usual a few nights ago with sniffing and snorting noises and that shuffle turned into a scramble.  I’ve never seen one move that fast. Those long front toenails(?) claws (?) made lots of noise.

Posted by julie on 6/23

If you notice the Armadillo’s front legs and paws/claws ... they are build much like their cousin, the anteater.  The opposing feet are turned bottoms outward so as to give them strong grip-leverage when they dive head-first into their burrow hole and wedge themselves in.  If the hole isn’t deep enough to accommodate the entire animal they’ll just freeze their grip in the hole.  You can pull on their tail (resembles a rat’s) to try to back him out of the hole but they will not let go.  You can (and probably will) pull the poor guy’s tail completely off.  It’s a survival strategy ... he hopes the attacker will simply give up and amble off.  However, it is commonly known amongst the Swamp People in Southern Louisiana, if you find a soft somethingoranother (stick) and tickle the little critter in the area under his tail (anus), he will immediately let go and (momentarily) become very submissive. I know this sounds like an old Cajun Bayou tale but if you don’t believe me, go find yourself an Armadillo in the woods and try it yourself.

Posted by Milt Jines on 6/23

That is really interesting. I was with my kids at this park and we saw an armadillo and my kids were fasinated by it. They asked me to keep it as a pet!!!!

Posted by Kristin on 6/25

Kristin ... I trust you didn’t keep the armadillo (or any other wild animal) as a “pet.”  As you know there are numerous reasons why keeping wildlife as “pets” is a bad idea.  If it is a rescue/rehab situation, that’s a totally different issue (and justified) but the animal MUST be returned to the wild when it is able to cope. Thank you for being a good example for your kids, Kristin.

Posted by Milt Jines on 6/25

They were introduced into Florida. But I’ve seen armadillos crossing the Mississippi River bridge near Greenville.

Posted by Brandy on 6/26

Methinks Huey P. Long had a secret affinity for Armadillos which is why he had the state build so many bridges across all those Louisiana rivers and swamplands so the critters could migrate to Mississippi and Florida.

Posted by Milt Jines on 6/26

how is the business and management course ?pls tell me about employment prospects after this degreeReputation Management Services

Posted by Reputation Management Services on 7/6

yes i was taking a shit in the woods while camping and 1 walked across i got sooo scared i forgot to wipe.

Posted by jonny boyd on 9/23

We live in a woody subdivision and walk our dog late at night at our nature trail. Armadillos frequently wander across the path and go into yards.  This morning around 6:30am, my son stepped into the backyard before getting ready for school.  He said he could tell something big was in the pool because of the water movement. He scurried to the backdoor and then -voila! -an armadillo shot out of the pool and scurried off.  This prompted to me to search the web to see if it was swimming or in duress.  All I can say is it must have been big if it could hop out from the pool steps.  I’m just glad I didn’t find a drowned armadillo in my pool.  I wonder where he’s burrowed - our backyard is fenced.

Posted by Mar on 9/26

I never thought that this cute armadillos can swim that fast. he is very cute. find a plumber greenwood indiana

Posted by gema on 9/28
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