I don’t know about you, but I like eccentric or kooky people. People slightly out of step with the rest of society. That’s not to say I’m into freaks or weirdoes. I admire people who march to different drummers, and not those with Alice Cooper blasting away inside their heads. I also like really wacky animals like: aye-ayes, gerenuks, dugongs, and Gobi jerboas. These animals, like many others, are considered strange because of their unusual appearances. But my absolute favorite kooky animal is a creature that looks sort of ordinary (like a big chubby ground hog) but has some really unique and wacky characteristics. The wombat. THE WOMBAT, you scream. Yep, wombats. They’re one of the kookiest creatures on earth. For starters, they are members of the Vombatidae family. Say what? you yell. Vombatidae is sub category of marsupials, and as best as I can tell wombats are the only creatures in that category. How’s that for being different, they are in their own category of mammals. Enough of this. Let’s talk about why they are the strangest of all of nature’s really strange creatures. First off, wombats burrow extensive tunnel systems with their two prominent front teeth and front legs. You heard me right, their teeth. I don’t know how big their tunnel systems are, but a single wombat will occupy and protect up to 57 acres of land. Secondly, mama wombat has a backward pouch so baby wombat doesn’t get buried in dirt while mama’s digging, which is most of the time. Imagine that, a pouch with the opening in the back rather that the front. Is that strange enough for you? How about the fact that wombats have an extraordinarily slow metabolism. It takes a wombat between 8 to 14 days to complete the digestion of their herbivore diet. Can you believe that? They take two weeks to digest a blade of grass, a chunk of bark, or a root. As you’d expect with that metabolism, they are generally very slow. But threaten a wombat and he or she can reach up to 25 mph for 90 seconds or so. That’s equal to the top speed of a charging elephant I’m sure you’ve all heard the expression “hard-ass.” (I used to work for one, but that’s another story.) Well, wombats have the hardest asses in the animal kingdom. Their hard asses and lack of tails are their primary defenses against dingos and Tasmanian devils. When a predator follows a wombat into its tunnel the predator can’t bite or get a hold of the harden cartilage rear-end of the wombat. Wombats actually use their butts to block their tunnels from attackers. That’s their total defense, a very hard ass..
If that’s not strange enough. Wombats are the only creature I know that walk across rivers and streams. Walk across? you scream. No, they can’t walk on water; they walk all the way across on the bottom. On the river bottom. Wombats poop is cube shaped. Yep, cubes. Their long digestive process takes all of the moisture out of their food, leaving a compact and smelly cube of scat. And the lack of muscle contractions in the wombat’s rectum fails to shape this cubic poop into the usual cylindrical shape. Cubic poop? There you have it. If you’re into out-of-the-ordinary things, you can join me as a fellow wombataphile. Postscript - Oh yeah, if you can’t get to Australia anytime soon, you can see wombats at the San Diego Zoo. You won’t see a wombat blocking a tunnel with his hard ass, or crossing a stream on the bottom, but will see a lot of cubic poop. Oh well.