Wombat Physical Characteristics
A Bare-nosed wombat sometimes look like a bear (picture courtesy of Womland,used with permission)
The wombat has the distinction of being the world's largest burrowing animal. It is the second largest marsupial; only certain kangaroo species are larger.
The wombat is most often described as resembling a small bear, but it has also been compared to a badger, a groundhog (woodchuck), and a marmot. In earlier times, when Australia was first being settled by Europeans, the wombat was often called a badger because of its resemblance to the European badger.
Whatever they're compared to, wombats are extremely strong and muscular. They're stocky animals with a barrel-shaped body, thick and heavy. They have a short, muscular neck, and a large, broad, flattened head. They have small eyes, and a face sometimes described as rodent-like. While their eyesight is poor, they have a keen sense of smell and excellent hearing. They are also able to detect slight ground vibrations.
A Hairy nosed wombat has a wide muzzle (picture courtesy of Wendy Morphett, used with permission)
Wombats are quadrupeds. All four limbs are short and powerful, the forelegs being the strongest. They also have powerful shoulders which helps them dig. The hind legs are longer than the front; this can best be seen by examining a wombat's skeleton. Both the front paws and the rear feet are wide and each have five digits. All digits are armed with broad claws except the first (inner) toe which is shorter than the others. The claws are long, strong, and well-designed for digging. The Wombat walks on the soles of its feet which have thick pads.
A wombat's fore paw claws are formidable (picture courtesy of Wendy Morphett)
A Bare-nosed wombat's front paws are quite dexterous and they can use them like hands. The wombat will often use its front paws to grasp vegetation, rip it from the ground, and feed it to its mouth. A Hairy nosed wombat cannot make a fist with its hand, however, and so cannot pick things up like the Bare-nosed wombat can. Because of this difference, a Bare-nosed wombat can climb, while a Hairy nosed wombat cannot.
The wombat's back is rounded and slopes downward. It's covered with very thick, tough skin which is hard as a board and protects the wombat from injury or attack. The wombat has a small, vestigial tail which is almost entirely concealed by its fur. Variations in size and color depend largely on where the wombats live.
Bare-nosed wombat displaying its muscular arms and rounded back (picture courtesy of Womland)
The pouch on the female wombat opens to the rear. This not only prevents it from filling with dirt and debris when the mother digs, it also provides greater protection to the young when the mother walks or runs as wombats have minimal ground clearance. There are two mammary glands inside the pouch.
Koalas, bandicoots, and Tasmanian devils also have rearward facing pouches. Bandicoots and Tasmanian devils are burrowers like the wombat, but the koala is arboreal and spends most of its time in eucalyptus trees.
Bare-nosed wombat skeleton shows the robust nature of its bones (picture courtesy of The Natural History Collections of the University of Edinburgh, used with permission)
Wombats have the most developed brain of any marsupial and it is larger than what would be expected for their body mass. The wombat's brain entirely fills its skull, unlike the koala, and has many surface convolutions indicating a high level of intelligence. Their skull is relatively large for the size of their body.
The Bare-nosed wombat (picture courtesy of The Natural History Collections of the University of Edinburgh)
The wombat's skeleton is sturdily constructed and quite compact. The bones, especially of the limbs, are short and thick. The wombat's skull and teeth are very similar to those of some rodents such as the beaver in North America, and the coypu in South America. The bones and musculature around the jaw in particular are very much like the beaver although wombats are not related to the beaver at all (other than they are both mammals).by Peter Marinacci