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Armadillo Vs Pangolin (How They’re Different)

If you live in the Southern regions of the United States, chances are you have seen an armadillo at least once in your life. However, you might not be so familiar with the Pangolin. When you compare the armadillo vs pangolin, they are two completely different animals. This article will explore the differences between these two unique creatures, and mention a few of the similarities.

Armadillo vs Pangolin: 11 Differences

Here’s a list of 11 differences between the armadillo and the pangolin.

1. They aren’t related

Chinese Pangolin on grass
Chinese Pangolin on grass | image by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0

Armadillos and pangolins may have physical similarities, but they have no taxonomic relationship. They are in two completely different family classifications. Armadillos are members of the Dasypodidae family, while pangolins are members of the Manidae family.

2. Pangolins are bigger

Long-tailed Pangolin
Long-tailed Pangolin | image by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0

While similarly sized in some cases, their size difference is worth mentioning. The smallest armadillo is around five inches long, and the smallest pangolin is about 12 inches long.

The largest armadillo can grow up to 59 inches long, and the largest pangolin can grow up to 55 inches. Not a huge difference, but considering the armadillo doesn’t have the long tail a pangolin has, this size difference is significant.

3. Their coloring is different

Armadillo in lush field
Armadillo in lush field | image by Lauren Mitchell via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Armadillos and pangolins are different colors and have different-looking scales. Armadillos are gray with scales that look more like plated armor. Their armor is more like a shell making them the only mammals with a shell.

Pangolins are brown, and their armor looks like individual, pointy scales similar to an artichoke. Pangolins are the only mammals covered from head to toe in scales.

4. Different geographic locations

Pangolin in grass field
Pangolin in grass field | image by Wildlife Alliance via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Pangolins prefer places with tropical climates, dry woodlands, or savannas, so they inhabit Africa and Asia. They can be found in China, Malaysia, India, and Africa.

Armadillos prefer warm or moderate climates and cannot stand the cold. They are found in South and Central America, though the nine-banded armadillo has made its way into the Southern region of the United States.

5. They have different diets

Armadillo eating grass
Armadillo eating grass | Image by SCPotter1948 from Pixabay

Armadillos and pangolins have different diets. Armadillos are omnivores and eat plants, small vertebrates, and insects.

Pangolins are carnivores living on a diet of termites and ants. Some scientists refer to them as insectivores, but the fact that armadillos eat plants while pangolins do not is worth mentioning.

6. Pangolins don’t have teeth

Armadillos have teeth so that they can chew their food. The giant armadillo even has up to one hundred teeth at any given time.

Pangolins do not have teeth. Instead, pangolins have stones and keratin spikes inside their stomachs to break up termites and ants.

7. Different self-defense mechanisms

Pangolin curls like a ball
Pangolin curls like a ball | image by flowcomm via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Armadillos and pangolins defend themselves in different ways. Only one type of armadillo can roll into a ball for protection, but all pangolin species can do this.

Pangolins can roll into a tight, impenetrable ball when they feel threatened. Pangolins can also defend themselves by spraying a noxious-smelling acid like skunks. Armadillos do not have this smelly defense tactic.

Armadillos use their armor for protection. They also stand still to see if a predator will ignore them. If that fails, they are very adept at running and hiding.

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8. Armadillos don’t climb very well

Pangolin climbing a tree
Pangolin climbing a tree | image by Marco Verch Professional Photographer via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Like most members of the Cingulate family, armadillos spend most of their time on the ground. They can climb over fences and other things that aren’t too high, but they are not known to climb trees. Unlike the armadillo, several pangolin species can climb and even reside in trees when they aren’t foraging for food.

9. They have different looking ears

Armadillo foraging in grass
Armadillo foraging in grass | image by DGriebeling via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Armadillos and pangolins have distinctly different ears. Armadillos have pointy ears that protrude from their heads. Pangolins either have small, rounded ears or just a set of ear holes.

10. Number of offspring

Baby Armadillo
Baby-Armadillo | image by stephanie carter via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Armadillos and pangolins also differ in the number of offspring they have. Pangolins typically have between one and three babies after mating. These babies ride on their mothers’ tails for three months and remain in her care for up to five months.

Armadillos can have anywhere from one to twelve offspring, depending on the species. The nine-banded armadillo always gives birth to identical quadruplets, all of the same sex. Armadillos keep their young in burrows for a few months before they are ready to go off on their own.

11. Some types of pangolin are endangered

One significant difference between armadillos and pangolins is that armadillos are not endangered. However, many species of pangolin are critically endangered due to poaching.

Their ability to roll into a ball is actually detrimental to them in this case because it makes it very easy for humans to pluck them off the ground.

What is an Armadillo?

Screaming hairy armadillo
Screaming hairy armadillo | image by Terry Robinson via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Armadillo is Spanish for “little-armored one,” which is fitting since these mammals have bony plates that protect them like armor. These plates cover the armadillo’s back, legs, head, and tail. There are 20 different species of armadillo, and they are all native to South and Central America.

One species, the nine-banded armadillo, has expanded into the United States to states such as Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Georgia, and other states in the Southern region.

When you think of an armadillo, you might picture them rolling into tight balls for protection. However, only one species of armadillo can do this: the three-banded armadillo.

What is a Pangolin?

Indian pangolin
Indian pangolin | image by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

The pangolin, often called the scaly anteater, is a scaly mammal found in Asia and Africa. They have long snouts and tongues similar to those of an anteater. There are nine different species of pangolin.

Pangolins are completely covered in scales which causes people to commonly mistake them for reptiles. Pangolin comes from an old Malay word that means “rolling up.” These aptly named creatures can roll into a tight ball when threatened to protect themselves.


Pangolins and armadillos look similar, but they are also very different. While both are mammals, they are members of different family classifications.

Armadillos include plants in their diet, but pangolins do not. They are also found on opposite sides of the world.

Now that you’ve been enlightened on the similarities and differences between the armadillo and pangolin, do you think you can tell them apart?