The wombat has a reputation for being a bit, well…..not that bright. The wonderful Australian author Ruth Park wrote a series of very popular children’s stories under the title. The Muddle-headed Wombat,
Waddling this way!
And what does he know? Well, how to dig, for one thing. He digs his own substantial home; quite enterprising for such a…..chubby fellow.
The wombat lives
In a funny old hole,
That goes in and in and in.,
The wombat looks
Like a funny old mole,
Except that he isn’t so thin.
One old settler tried to protect his three acre crop of oats from them and thought he had succeeded. He dug a trench around the paddock, laid 18 inch logs along it, then covered it with earth and built a fence on top. The wombats simply tunneled underneath the logs and ambled into the oats
Like most ‘digging’ marsupials the wombat has a pouch that faces backwards, so its baby (known as a joey) doesn’t get a face full of dirt.
A wombat’s wide bottom is useful in another way, too. If predators are lurking near the burrow it can turn around and block the entrance….. like a large, furry cork.
I found some anonymous verses about this quaint creature dating from the 1920s. Here is verse one;
The wombat isn’t beautiful,
And hasn’t any grace,
And his toes turn in when they should turn out,
But he has an honest face.
Yes, that face is completely honest I reckon. What on earth was the artist and author Norman Lindsay thinking when he created a wombat puddin’ thief in The Magic Pudding?
Many years earlier another artist kept a wombat as a pet in his London home. The Pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti even allowed Top to sit up at the dining table. On one occasion Top disgraced himself by eating a lady guest’s hat. I’m afraid he didn’t live all that long. Whether the hat was a contributing factor is unclear.
It would be easy to imagine our plump wombats coming a distant last in running races, but over short distances they can move with the speed of Olympic sprinters. Forty kilometres over a distance of 100 metres isn’t too shabby!
A distant cousin to the wombat is the koala, and there is definitely a family resemblance. It’s the nose I think.
As verse two of that poem notes, a wombat doesn’t make much noise, just a snuffle that becomes an asthmatic wheeze if it is annoyed.
The wombat doesn’t talk much,
But not because he can’t,
He was told that he mustn’t when he was young,
By his elderly maiden aunt.
Now the next verse is very important in understanding the internal workings of a wombat;
The wombat doesn’t eat much,
You’ll notice as you pass,
For all that he wants for his supper at night,
Is a ton or two of grass.
Digestion is a long, slow process, and the end result is scats that look like smooth river rocks.
The animals use these compacted scats to mark out territory. Flat sides mean the pellets of poo don’t topple off logs or rocks etc. Isn’t that clever? There are other, anatomical reasons for the shape….and no, it’s not because they have square bottoms!
Read more here. Thanks National Geographic, for explaining the whole thing.
But how is the poo actually formed into the cube shapes? A recent discovery by Australian scientists won an IGNOBLE PRIZE
UPDATE – JUNE 2021
Sadly, wombats suffer from mange, spread by mites. A new invention is being used to explore their burrows, gathering research data. It’s a small, remote controlled vehicle dubbed……. Wombot. 😍 We humans need to be wise too, for the sake of our adorable friends.
Do you know what one of the collective names for wombats is? A wisdom. Yes, honestly.
HERE IS A DELIGHTFUL VIDEO OF A PLAYFUL BABY WOMBAT.
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