Aardwolf [Proteles cristata] The name Aardwolf means 'earth wolf' in Afrikaans and stems from its supposed dog-like features and its dietary habits of eating termites which it digs for in the ground and in the termite mounds.


The Aardwolf has a yellowish brown coat with several vertical black stripes, a bushy, black tipped tail with a long, coarse, dark haired stripe on its back, which rises when the Aardwolf feels threatened or scared.

The Aardwolf stands at 40-50 cm from the shoulder with a tail length of 20-25 cm and has a length of 65-80cm from nose to tail and weighs between 8 to 12 kg. It resembles a small striped Hyena.


This unusual species of Hyena is a termite eater. So highly adapted to eating termites, the aardwolf's teeth, except for its canines, have dwindled to mere pegs incapable of even chewing meat. Its fangs are still well developed, and it uses them to defend its territory from other Aardwolves.

The Aardwolf's diet consists mainly of two species of termites, one of which goes dormant during the cooler winter, so the Aardwolf then switch to the other species for nourishment.

This limited diet means the Aardwolf has a very restricted range and can only live where these two species of termites are abundant. On an average night an Aardwolf can consume anywhere from 200 000 to 300 000 termites.

By using their acute hearing the Aardwolf is able to detect termites in the ground and then using their broad, sticky tongue they lap them up. The Aardwolf also is known to eat other animals such as mice, small birds, eggs, and carrion.


©Nigel Dennis
Since the male and female Aardwolf are solitary, shy and elusive not much is known about their social behavior, but it is believed that mating occurs throughout the year. Gestation lasts for 90-100 days and 2 to 4 cubs are produced. When the cubs are weaned both parents feed them regurgitated termites.


Aardwolves are nocturnal, solitary foragers, only coming together to mate and rear young. They are sometimes seen in pairs or small groups. The Aardwolf has never developed a clan system like the spotted and striped hyenas because of their strict diet of termites. Since food cannot be shared or brought back to the den, aardwolves must travel and forage by themselves.

Their dens are normally enlarged springhare burrows, but they also frequent disused Aardvark or Porcupine burrows. Aardwolves are avid diggers and in the absence of holes, they will construct their own.

Where Aardwolf Are Found

Aardwolf occurs throughout eastern and southern Africa, except in the south along the coast. These secretive and entirely harmless carnivores appear to have a wide habitat tolerance with a preference for semi-arid, open plains, savannas, and grasslands where it lives in burrows in the ground.

There are two geographically separate populations of Aardwolve's, one centered in South Africa and the other extending from central Tanzania northward to southern Egypt. Aardwolfs are mostly found in the grasslands and scrubs of Botswana, Karoo, and the Northern Cape Province.

Vital Statistics

Weight (Female)
7,7 - 13,5 kg
Weight (Male)
7,7- 13,5 kg
Length (Female)
90 cm
Length (Male)
90 cm
Gestation Period
2 months
No of Young
2 - 4 cubs
2 - 4 young are born from September - April after a gestation period of ± 2 months.

Spoor Description

The Aardwolf has 5 toes on the fore-feet, but the first toe is situated high up and does not mark in the spoor, and has 4 toes on the hind-feet. The claws are narrow when viewed from above, but with side view is broad at the base and strongly built, and about 20 mm long over the curve.
©Nigel Dennis
Kruger National Park - South African Safari