Wombats are marsupials found only in Australia, but the short, stubby-legged animals are rarely held in the same regard as other native animals like koalas and kangaroos.
However, these adorable creatures deserve some much-deserved recognition. In honor of these under-appreciated marsupials, here are eight things you might not know about wombats.
1. There are three species of wombats: common wombats, northern hairy-nosed wombats and southern hairy-nosed wombats. While there are thousands of common and southern hairy-nosed wombats in the wild, the northern hairy-nosed wombat is critically endangered.
2. When it comes to mating, southern hairy-nosed females tend to bite a male's bottom when they're most fertile. Researchers hope this recent discovery will help captive breeding efforts to ensure the species' survival.
Wombats prefer to live in wet, forested areas near the coastline in Australia. (Photo: Charles Meeks [CC BY-ND 2.0]/Flickr)
3. Most Australians have never seen a wombat in the wild because the animals spend most of the daylight hours in their burrows.
4. Although their wide bodies and stubby legs give them the appearance of being slow-moving, wombats can run up to 25 mph over short distances.
Wombats spend between three to eight hours a day eating. (Photo: Andy Tyler [CC BY-ND 2.0]/Flickr)
5. Wombats produce cube-shaped poop pellets. The peculiar shape is a result of the dryness of the animal’s feces. Wombats are known for having the driest poop of any mammal, a result of their long digestive process, which can take 14 to 18 days. This lengthy process allows wombats to absorb the maximum amount of nutrients from their food. Their intestine walls also play a role. The walls stretch unevenly as the poop slowly moves through — thus causing the feces to be cube shaped.
6. Their incisors never stop growing — kind of like guinea pigs — and wombats keep their teeth to a suitable length by chowing down on grasses, bark and roots.
The gestation period is only between 20 to 22 days. (Photo: Will Keightley [CC BY-SA 2.0]/Flickr)
7. While other marsupials have pouches that open at the top toward the mother's head, wombats have backwards pouches. Wombats are burrowing animals, so a backwards-facing pouch prevents soil from falling onto its young.
8. Wombats are adept at tunneling. Often their networks of burrows — called warrens — are used by other animals seeking refuge underground. They most recently gained attention for sharing their homes, albeit accidentally, with animals escaping wildfires in Australia.
Their burrow entrances are often just large enough for one animal. When an animal such as a dingo attacks a wombat, the marsupial simply turns around and uses its backside as a shield. The animals' rears are covered with thick, tough skin, and wombats have very small tails, making them difficult to grab onto.
Check out more photos below to see just how cute wombats are.
A wombat sucks on a bottle. (Photo: notmerely [CC BY 2.0]/Flickr)
A mother and baby wombat.(Photo: Stonestreet's Coaches [CC BY-ND 2.0]/Flickr)
Just a wombat walking through a pipe. (Photo: Maarten Danial [CC BY-ND 2.0]/Flickr)
Editor's note: This article has been updated with new information since it was originally published in October 2014.