What is a Wombat?

Wombat meaning (family Vombatidae) is any of three large terrestrial species of the Australian marsupials. Similar to woodchucks, wombats are virtually tailless and heavily built burrowers with short ears and small eyes. However, wombats are larger, measuring 80 to 120 cm (31 to 47 in) long. They are strictly herbivorous and primarily nocturnal, eating grasses and, in the case of the common wombat (Vombatus Ursinus), the inner bark of shrub and tree roots. Wombats are considered pests by the farmers because they dig in pastures and cultivated fields and because their burrows can harbour rabbits.

Evolution and Taxonomy

Though the Vombatidae's genetic studies have been undertaken, the family evolution is not well understood. Wombats are estimated to diverged from the other Australian marsupials relatively early, longer than 40 million years ago, while a few estimates place divergence at up to 25 million years. At the same time, some other theories place wombats as miniaturised relatives of the diprotodonts, such as rhinoceros-sized Diprotodon. The more recent studies place the Vombatiformes as holding a distinct parallel evolution, thus their current classification as a separate family.

Characteristics of Wombats

Wombats usually dig extensive burrow systems with their powerful claws and rodent-like front teeth. A distinctive adaptation of wombats is the backward pouch. An advantage of this backwards-facing pouch is, when digging, the wombat does not gather any soil in its pouch over its young. Although primarily nocturnal and crepuscular, wombats can also venture out to feed on overcast or cool days. They are not seen commonly but leave ample pieces of evidence of their passage by treating fences as minor inconveniences to be either gone through or under.

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Wombats live with distinctive cubic feces. As the wombats arrange these specific feces to attract mates and mark territories, it is also believed that the cubic shape makes them more stackable and very less likely to roll which results in this shape a biological advantage. The method where the wombat produces them is not understood, but it is believed that preferentially, the wombat intestine stretches at the walls, with two stiff areas and two flexible around its intestines.

Any adult wombat produces between 80 and 100 2 cm (0.8 in) pieces of feces in a single night and from 4 to 8 pieces every bowel movement. The production of cube-shaped wombat faeces was the topic of the Ig Nobel Prize in Physics in 2019, which was awarded by David Hu and Patricia Yang.

Wombats are herbivores, which means they eat largely sedges, grasses, bark, herbs, and roots. Their incisor teeth, which are designed for biting tough plants, resemble those of rodents (mice, rats, and so on). They, like numerous other herbivorous animals, have a considerable diastema between their basic cheek teeth and incisors. Wombats have the following dental formula:

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The below figure is the Wombat cubic scat, which is found near Cradle Mountain in Tasmania.

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The fur of wombats may differ either from a sandy colour to brown or from grey to black. All these three known extant species average near 1 metre (3 feet 3 in) in length and weigh between 20 - 35 kg (44 - 77 lb).

Female wombats are the ones who give birth to a single young after the gestation period of nearly 20–30 days, which differs between the species. All the species have well-developed pouches that the young leave after around 6 -7 months. After 15 months, wombats are weaned, and they are sexually mature at 18 months.

A group of wombats is called either a mob, wisdom or a colony.

Typically, wombats live up to 15 years in the wild, but they may live past 20 and even 30 years in captivity. The longest-lived captive wombat is the one that lived to 34 years of age.

Also, in 2020, biologists have discovered that wombats, like several other Australian marsupials, display bio-fluorescence under ultraviolet light.

Ecology and Behaviour of Wombats

Wombats hold an extraordinarily slow metabolism, taking up to 8 - 14 days to complete digestion that aids their survival in arid conditions. In general, they move slowly. When threatened, they can attain speeds of up to 40 km/h (25 mph) and sustain that pace for around 150 metres (490 ft). Wombats defend the home territories centred on their burrows, and also they react aggressively towards the intruders. The common wombat takes place in a range of up to 23 ha (57 acres), while the hairy-nosed species contain much smaller ranges, which is not more than 4 ha (10 acres).

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The above figure represents the Dentition, as illustrated in Knight's Sketches in the Natural History.

Tasmanian and Dingoes devils prey on wombats. Extinct predators were likely to have included the Thylacoleo and also, possibly the thylacine. Their major defense is their toughened rear hide, with most of the posterior, which is made of cartilage. This, combined with the lack of a meaningful tail, makes it more difficult for any predator, which follows the wombat into its tunnel to bite and injure its particular target. When attacked, the wombats dive into a tunnel, found nearby, using their rumps to block any pursuing attacker. A wombat can allow an intruder to force its head over the back of wombats and then use its powerful legs to crush the predator's skull against the tunnel's roof or drive it off with the two-legged kicks, like those of a donkey.

Generally, wombats are quiet animals, and bare-nosed wombats can make various multiple sounds compared to hairy-nosed wombats. Wombats tend to be vocal in mating season. They can make hissing sounds when angered, and their call sounds somewhat like a squeal of pigs. They can also create grunting noises, a raspy cough, a low growl, and a clicking noise.


The three extant species of the wombat are endemic to Australia and some offshore islands. They are protected under Australian law.

Common Wombat (Vombatus Ursinus)

The common wombat meaning is given as it has bald and coarse dark hair with a granular nose pad. It is also common in woodlands of the hilly country along the Dividing Range in the region of southeastern Australia, from southeastern Queensland through Victoria into South Australia and New South Wales, and in Tasmania. In historical times, dwarf forms lived on very small islands in the Bass Strait, but these wombats have become extinct due to habitat destruction by grazing cattle.

The common wombat representation is given below.

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Another common wombat is given as follows.

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Southern hairy-nosed wombat (Lasiorhinus latifrons)

The hairy-nosed wombats (or the genus Lasiorhinus) are sociable. They generally make a grassy nest at the end of the large underground burrow around 30 metres (100 ft) long, which is shared with many other wombats. They have pointed ears and silky fur, and the nose is fully hairy, without any bald pad. The southern hairy-nosed wombat (or the L. latifrons) is smaller compared to the common wombat; it lives in a semiarid country, primarily in South Australia, extending via Nullarbor Plain into Western Australia's southeast.

Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombat or Yaminon (lasiorhinus Krefftii)

This very rare Queensland or the northern, hairy-nosed wombat animal (or L. Bernardi) is larger and varies in cranial details; it is protected by law, and most of them live within the Epping Forest National Park in central Queensland, where there are just 60 - 80 remaining. Two other populations of the hairy-nosed wombats became extinct in the late 19th or early 20th century, and one near St. George in southwestern Queensland, whereas the other at Deniliquin on the Murray River in the regions of New South Wales; these closely resembled the species of Queensland.

Wombat animal’s skull is flattened, and its bones are very thick. Unlike the other marsupials, wombats hold continuously growing rootless teeth adapted to the hard-wearing diet. The two incisor teeth in every jaw are rodent-like, and there are no canine teeth. Almost, the wombats invariably bear one young at one time, which develops for 5 months or longer in a pouch, which opens rearward. They sexually become mature at 2 years of age in the common wombat and 3 in hairy-nosed wombats.

Human Relations

Attacks on Humans

From wombat claws and bites, humans may receive puncture wounds. Startled wombats may bowl them over and also charge humans with the attendant risks of broken bones from the fall. One naturalist, named Harry Frauca, once received a bite 2 cm (0.8 inches) deep into the flesh of his leg via a rubber boot, thick woollen socks, and trousers. A UK newspaper, named "The Independent," reported that on 6 Ap 2010 that a 59-year-old man from rural Victoria state was mauled by the wombat (thought to have been angered by the mange) by causing many cuts and bite marks with a need of hospital treatment. At that time, he resorted to killing it with an axe.

Cultural Significance

Common wombats are considered by a few farmers as a nuisance primarily because of their burrowing behaviour "Fatso- the Fat-Arsed Wombat" was one of the tongue-in-cheek "unofficial" mascots of the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Since 2005, an unofficial holiday known as Wombat Day has been observed on 22 Oct.

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The above figure represents the Wombat sculpture, located at Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens, Daylesford, Victoria.

Wombat meat has been one of the sources of bush food from the aboriginal Australians' arrival to the Europeans' arrival. Because of the species' protection, wombat meat as food is no longer a part of mainstream Australian cuisine, whereas the wombat stew was once one of the truly few dishes of Australia. In the 20th century, the easily found rabbit meat was commonly used. (Now, Rabbits are considered an invasive pest in Australia.) Also, the dish name is used by popular children's books and musicals.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. How are Wombats Featured?

Answer: Wombat animals have featured in Australian coins and postage stamps. The hairy-nosed wombats are mainly featured to highlight their elevated conservation status. At the same time, the northern hairy-nosed wombat featured on an Australian 1974 20-cent stamp and the Australian 1981 five-cent stamp. The common wombat has appeared on an Australian 1996 95-cent stamp and a 1987 37-cent stamp.

The series of 2006 Australian Bush Babies stamps features an AU $ 1.75-stamp of the baby common wombat. The series of 2010 Rescue to Release features a 60-cent stamp of the common wombat being treated by the veterinarian. Wombats can be rarely seen on the circulated Australian coins, which is an exception is a 50-cent coin that also represents a lorikeet and koala. The common wombat appeared on the northern hairy-nosed wombat on a 1998 Australia Silver Proof $ 10 coin and on a 2005 commemorative $ 1 coin.

2. Give the Conservation of Wombats.

Answer: All the species of wombats can be protected in all the Australian states. The northern hairy-nosed wombat animal is given as an endangered species. The biggest threats the species faces are predation by wild dogs, small population size, competition for food due to overgrazing by sheep and cattle, and disease.

The only well-known wild populations of this particular species exist in two locations in Queensland, a smaller colony being established by translocating wombats to the Richard Underwood Nature Refuge at the Yarran Downs region and the Epping Forest National Park. This second one is being created through the project of Xstrata reintroduction that is being funded by Xstrata, which is a Swiss global mining company.

3. Explain the Population of Wombats.

Answer: The population of wombat animals in the Epping Forest National Park has been greatly increasing since the predator-proof fence was erected in the park. The latest census, taken in 2013, says that the park is home to 196 of these endangered wombats, with numbers at these two locations expected to have increased to 230 in number by late 2015.

The common wombat is no longer common despite its name, and officially, it has been a protected animal in New South Wales since 1970. In eastern Victoria, however, they are not protected and are considered by a few to be pests, especially because of the damage they cause to rabbit-proof fences.

WomSAT, which is a citizen science project, was established in 2016 to record the wombat's sightings across the country. The mobile phone and website app can be used to log the sightings of either live or deceased wombats and wombat burrows. Since its establishment, the project has recorded around 7,000 sightings across Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, and Tasmania.