Aardwolf (Proteles cristata)

Species:P. cristata

Aardwolf is a mammal predator that eats insects. The aardwolf animals will look like small hyenas with stripes. The aardwolf is a shy animal that spends most of its time on the dry plains of Africa at night. There are a lot of aardwolves in the two populations, which are in different places. They live in many places in South Africa and East Africa. The aardwolf is known as Proteles cristatus in the scientific world.

“Earth wolf” is what the word “aardwolf” means in Afrikaans. The aardwolf is yellowish and has some black stripes going up and down its back. They also have a bushy tail with a black tip. The height of the aardwolf is less than half a meter high to the shoulders. If you don’t count their tails, an aardwolf can be anywhere from 55 cm to 80 cm long.

Aardwolves are about 20 to 30 cm long all the way around. Aardwolves weigh between 8 kg and 12 kg on average. Like a hyena, the aardwolf animals have long, coarse ridges with erectile hairs along the length of the back, longer front than hind legs, and sturdy shoulders. The aardwolf can’t run as fast as other animals because its front feet have five toes instead of four. Aardwolves don’t have as strong skulls as hyenas, but they still have the sharp canine teeth and strong jaws of hyenas, which they use when fighting.

The cheek teeth of the Proteles cristatus are just pegs that are good enough for crushing the insects they eat. They are only used to catch termites. With their sensitive, pointy ears, aardwolves can smell or hear the rustling of thousands of small termites in the grass. They lick the termites with their sticky tongue.

General Description

So, now you have an idea of what is an aardwolf. Most aardwolves look like hyenas with thin, striped fur. The muzzles of aardwolves are more narrow, and their fur is yellow with black vertical stripes. They have a long, distinct mane that hangs down the middle of their necks and backs.

The Proteles cristatus has several stripes on its legs and one or two diagonal stripes below its front and back legs. When these animals fight, their manes stand up to make the aardwolf look bigger. But other animals in the same family as the aardwolf have a spot on their throat, but the aardwolf doesn’t. The aardwolf’s lower legs are all black, and their bushy tails end in a black tip.


If you don’t count their bushy tails, an aardwolf is about 50 to 80 cm long. Their bushy tails are about 20 to 30 cm long. The aardwolf is between 40 cm and 50 cm tall when it stands up. Also, the average weight of an aardwolf is between 7 and 10 kg. The aardwolf can weigh up to 15 kg at times. Moreover, the aardwolf in the southern part of Africa looks smaller than the ones in the eastern part of Africa.

The aardwolf is one of the smallest animals in the family Hyaenidae that still lives. The hyena’s front feet have four toes, but the aardwolf’s front feet have five toes. Even though the aardwolf is smaller than other hyenas, its teeth and skull are very similar to those of other hyenas.

The aardwolf can eat insects because it has teeth on its cheeks. But, like other hyenas, aardwolves don’t have any teeth. The Proteles cristatus has big ears that look a lot like the ears of striped hyenas. Most aardwolves lose their teeth as they get older, which doesn’t change much about how they eat because the insects they eat are so soft.

Aardwolf Habitat

Most of the time, aardwolves like to live in open, flat plains and bushlands. They tend to avoid living in mountainous areas. This is because they need certain kinds of food. The aardwolves will choose a place where they might find more termites and members of the Hodotermitidae family. The termite family eats mostly dead and decaying things and grass that has died.

So, most termites live in grazed grasslands, savannahs, and farmland. Most of the time, aardwolves live in territories that they share with other animals. Animals will stay in dens for about six weeks at a time. There are only two places in the world where there are whole groups of aardwolves. These are Southern Africa and East and Northeast Africa. But you can’t find these species in the miombo forests in the middle. The territory of a pair of aardwolves and they’re most recent young will be between 1 and 4 km.

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Aardwolves are shy animals that only come out at night. Most of the time, they sleep in their burrows during the day, and in the winter, they feed during the day. That means that during the winter, they will be looking for food day and night. During the coldest times of the year, they will stay in a burrow to keep warm.

People often think they live alone but can live with their young in monogamous pairs. If someone is in the aardwolf’s territory, the aardwolf will chase the person up to 400 m to the border. If the animal found an intruder in their territory, they would fight with each other while softly clucking, barking, and making a sound like a roar. Most of the incursions will happen during mating season, but only once or twice a week.

When there isn’t enough food, the strict territorial system falls apart on its own, and about three families of aardwolf animals can share a territory. Both males and females will leave their scent on their territory. Both males and females have well-developed anal glands that release a black, greasy substance onto rocks or grass stalks in 5 mm-long streaks.

Scent Glands

Aardwolves also have scent glands on their front feet and on the pad of their penises. About once every 20 minutes, the aardwolf will mark termite mounds in its territory. If the aardwolf is patrolling the edges of its territory, the markings happen much more often, about once every 50 m. A person can make up to 60 marks per hour, and those marks will keep going up until they reach 200 per night.

Aardwolf Territory

A single pair of aardwolves can make up to 10 dens and a lot of poop piles in their territory. Here, they will poop in their middles, dig a-holes, and put sand on top of the middens. Most of the time, they make their homes in the old dens of springhares, aardvarks, or porcupines. Sometimes, they use cracks in rocks. They can also dig their own dens or make existing ones bigger.

But these animals only live in one or two dens at a time, and they move to a new den every six months. They can’t run very fast. And they are very good at fighting off animals that want to eat them. When they feel threatened, aardwolves will double back in their tracks to throw off their predator. Their anal glands also let out a liquid that smells bad.

What Does An Aardwolf Eat?

So, what do aardwolves eat? Aard wolf eats mostly termites, more specifically Trinervitermes. All kinds of termites will be eaten by the aardwolf. Trinervitermes bettonianus is what the termites in East Africa eat. Also, the termites in central Africa will have trinervitermes rhodesiensis, and the termites in southern Africa will eat T. trinervoides.

In contrast to the aardvark, which digs into the mound, aardwolf animals will lick the ground. The sound of termites will help them find their food. It uses its long, sticky tongue to eat about 250,000 termites every night. Also, to protect and make sure the termites survive, they don’t destroy the whole termite mound or eat the whole colony.

So they can rebuild and give termites a steady supply of food. Also, they remember where these termite nests are, so they can go back every few months. Termites don’t have much to eat when it rains or when it’s cold in the middle of winter. So, they will look for other places to get food. They also eat other insects, eggs, larvae, and sometimes small mammals and birds, but these are only a small part of their overall diet. But aardwolves don’t kill or scavenge for food as hyenas do.


Aardwolf animals can breed time of year, depending entirely on where they live. Most of the time, aardwolves have their litters in the fall or spring. In South Africa, aardwolves give birth in early July. During mating season, even male animals that are not paired will look for their female to mate with.

Here, the dominant males of a species can also mate with less dominant females, which can lead to fights between males of different species. The aardwolf will mate for one to four and a half hours. Males who are stronger than other males will go into the territory of females with weaker males and try to breed. Also, the female animals will allow the dominant males to mate. This also makes it more likely that she can get the strongest cubs to join her.

Gestation Period

An aardwolf’s pregnancy will last between 89 and 92 days. At the end of their pregnancy, these animals will have anywhere from two to five cubs. Most of the time, the pregnancy ends in November or December. The aardwolf will also be more active when it’s raining. Aardwolf pups are born with their eyes open, but they can’t move or do anything else.

They weigh between 200 and 350 g. The baby aardwolf will stay in the den with its parents for the first six to eight weeks. The male aardwolf will stay in the den for about six hours to watch over the cubs while the female aardwolf goes out to find food. After three to four months, most animals are ready to live on their own. Also, until the next breeding season, a young female aardwolf will often share a den with her mother. Aardwolves also reach sexual maturity between the ages of one and a half and two years.

Where Does An Aardwolf Live?

Even though aardwolves hunt on their own, they live in pairs and defend a territory with glandular fluids from their anals. When they are attacked, they may fight and let out a fluid that smells like rotten eggs.

During the wetter months, when termites are most active, the mother will give birth to a litter of two or three cubs in a safe place such as a tunnel, a crevice in the ground, or even the abandoned home of a porcupine or an aardvark. At four months old, cubs are weaned and have long since left the den by the time the next litter is born. Most experts put the aardwolf in the family Hyaenidae, but some say it belongs in a different family called Protelidae.

Aardwolf vs. Hyena

The aardwolf is in the same family as the hyena, and it looks a lot like a hyena. The main differences are that aardwolves usually live in smaller family groups and eat insects instead of dead animals or bigger animals.

Aardwolf Facts!

  • People think that aardwolves are a type of “primitive” hyena. This means that they may have come from a very early branch of the hyena family before the other three species appeared. Based on what we know about their genes and fossils, they probably stopped being related to the other hyenas between 15 and 32 million years ago. Scientists used to think that the aardwolf might not be a hyena at all but rather a closely related species that looks like a striped hyena to fool potential predators. However, this theory has become less popular as more evidence has come in.
  • Because aardwolves are designed to eat termites, some of their teeth have changed into sharp points that can barely chew meat. Instead, they use their strong jaws to defend their territory.
  • This species is also called a maanhaar-jackal, which means “mane-jackal” in Dutch, even though it has nothing in common with jackals.

Scientific Name

The aardwolf is known as Proteles cristata in the scientific world. The Greek name for the genus Proteles, which means “complete in front,” comes from the fact that this animal has five toes on its front legs but only four on its back legs.

Cristata is a word that comes from Latin and means a comb or tuft on an animal’s head (referring to its luxurious mane). The aardwolf is the only animal in its genus that is still alive. It is in the same family as the brown hyena, the spotted hyena, and the striped hyena. It used to be put in its own family, but that is no longer thought to be right.


In the wild, the aardwolf doesn’t face many serious threats because it stays by itself and doesn’t bother people too often. But sometimes, they are in danger of being killed by hunting, car accidents, or the loss of their homes because humans are moving in.

What Eats The Aardwolf?

Adult aardwolves have few dangerous enemies in the wild, but jackals, lions, leopards, and other hyenas can kill an aardwolf puppy. Sometimes, hunting dogs will attack and kill an aardwolf.

Aardwolf IUCN Status

The IUCN Red List says that aardwolves are a species that doesn’t need much help. This means that the population is healthy and doesn’t need any extra work to protect it. There is no way to know how many aardwolves live in their whole range, in part because they are hard to find and only come out at night.

But based on how the aardwolf acts, we know that there aren’t very many of them. A breeding pair can take up as much as 1 to 4 square kilometers of land (0.4 to 1.5 square miles). Even when it’s not breeding season, the male will protect his territory.

Aardwolf FAQs


What Is An Aardwolf?

The aardwolf is a medium-sized animal in the hyena family that eats meat. Even though the hyena’s ancestry is pretty clear, it has enough unique features that it shouldn’t be too hard to identify.

Are Aardwolves Aggressive?

Male aardwolves can fight with each other, but they almost never fight with people unless they are provoked to do so. They would rather not talk to anyone.

What Animal Eats An Aardwolf?

Jackals, lions, and leopards will sometimes eat the young ones. Adults face few predators most of the time.

Is An Aardwolf A Dog?

Even though some people think it is, the aardwolf is neither a dog nor a canine. It’s actually a hyena, and hyenas are more closely related to cats than they are to dogs. They haven’t had a common ancestor with dogs for at least 50 million years.

Is The Aardwolf Endangered?

Most major conservationists don’t think that aardwolves are a species that needs to be saved. In the wild, it faces few major threats.

How Long Can An Aardwolf Live?

The exact length of its life has never been known, but a study of species that are most similar to it suggests that it can live for at least 15 years and maybe as long as 20.

Is An Aardwolf An Omnivore?

Almost all of the time, the aardwolf eats meat. It doesn’t eat much plant matter.

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