Nine-banded Armadillo

Dasypus novemcinctus

Order: Edentata or Xenarthra

Husbandry Information

Housing Requirements

  • This species has been housed successfully in 6-8 foot metal troughs/stock tanks with a wood and mesh lid. Built in enclosures such as Corners Cages would also work for this species. Provide a hide box and stuff with balled newspaper. The armadillo will shred the paper and make a nest out of it. Because the nesting material in the nest box can get moist, adapting a Rubbermaid style tote by cutting a hole in the side allows for easy cleaning. Wood shavings, mulch or newspaper can be used as a substrate in the trough.
  • No supplemental heating is needed if animals are kept in a climate controlled space.
  • Although this species is normally considered to be terrestrial, they will climb if given the opportunity. Be deliberate in providing climbing opportunities since they are not skilled climbers and can fall.
  • This species likes to dig so digging opportunities should be provided. At Philadelphia Zoo, one animal was trying to dig so much, even with digging options provided, she made her feet raw. This can be corrected by placing horse stall mats on the floor as a softer surface.
  • They really enjoy swimming. Seasonally we have to provide our female with a large water tub to bathe in other wise she will use her water bowl and leave no fresh drinking water
  • Depending on temperament can be housed with other species. At the Greensboro Science Center our female has been housed with screech owls, sloth, hairy armadillo, kinkajou, and PHT porcupine (only during the day)

Diet Requirements

    • In the wild, nine-banded armadillos mostly eat insects (especially beetles and ants), amphibians, crayfish, small mammals, and carrion
    • In captivity, they are fed Anteater mix, K-Sol, and mealworms.
    • Blank Park Zoo’s diet via Jacksonville Zoo:1.0 Armadillo
    DAILY diet (fed PM)
    -10 crickets
    -20g Sweet Potato finely chopped mixed with 20g various fruits finely chopped(no citrus)
    -1c Diamond Dog Food, Mazuri 1/4c Insectivore Pellet, 20g BOP diet, ¼ banana, add water and mix in blender until
    smoothie consistency
    • Greensboro Science Center’s Diet

    0.1 Armadillo
    Fed 2xs a day

    • 50g Mazuri inscetivore diet soaked
    • 10g finely chopped fruit
    • will give egg, insects as enrichment

Veterinary Concerns

  • This species will occasionally pop a scale off but itusually heals up well with simple vet care.
  • One animal at the Philadelphia Zoo had problems with a chronic nail fungus whichpaused overgrowth of nails. The infection was held in check with periodic anti fungal medicine and nail soaks in white vinegar.
  • The female at the Greensboro science center had an issue with her scales falling off. It was a yearly issues that we would see then it would clear up. As she aged the problem got worse and we were able to treat with an IM antibiotic and the issue has not returned

Notes on Enrichment & Training

  • This species responds well to digging opportunities. Enrichment that allowed digging such as mulch in a rubber trough was well utilized by these armadillos.


Colony or Breeding Management


Individual Identification


Programmatic Information


Temperature Guidelines



Tips on Presentation

  • Some institutions do not allow use of this species because of mycobacterium concerns (Hansen’s Disease). However, researchers report low risk with animals not born in the wild in disease active areas.
  • Armadillos are not comfortable being off the ground so when training and presenting this species, try approaches that allow for presentation on a solid surface or provide adequate support when holding the animal so it can relax.
  • Using bins filled with items to root through displays natural behavior for this species.
  • Armadillos can also swim so placing them in a tub and pouring water on them is a great way to show a class how they bath
  • Armadillo educational materials, including coloring pages and mazes that nicely accompany armadillo encounters, are available from the Pantanal Giant Armadillo Project at

Temperature Guidelines

    • San Francisco Zoo: housed indoors year-round. He can go outside for encounters and exercise if the temperature is over 60 degrees.
    • Rhode Island Zoological Society
      • 65˚ F min to 90˚ F max in program spaceTransport container must be kept 70˚ F to 85˚ F.
      • If temperatures are above 32˚F, the armadillo may be transported on grounds in a covered carrier. Use fleece cover under 70˚F, down cover under 50˚F.
      • If the temperature is below 32˚F, the armadillo may be transported in a heated vehicle only.

Touching Techniques

Tips on Handling

  • Wild caught animals may be challenging to acclimate to handling, better success has been acheived with animals handled from the time they are young.
  • Be aware that a startled armadillo has a powerful buck and can propel itself up to 4 feet straight up in the air. Handlers in the past have been struck in the face by a bucking armadillo. This is not common for animals that are well acclimated to handling.


Potential Messaging

  • Climate change: Desert and Dryland species have specific adaptations for the temperature and water availability in their natural habitat and may not be able to adjust to the drying effects of climate change. Hotter conditions promote wildfires. More extreme drought conditions kill plants that hold the soil in place and occasional extreme rain events wash that soil away preventing them from growing back in a process called desertification. Greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels contributes to climate change by trapping heat in the atmosphere. Please ask guests to walk, bike, or take public transportation when possible and to reduce their use of fossil fuels when they do drive by buying a fuel economic car, carpooling, combining errands, and keeping vehicles properly tuned up and their tires properly inflated. At home and work, purchase Energy Star appliances, turn off lights when they are not in use, and use heaters and air conditioners sparingly. The principles of reduce, reuse, and recycle will also help by decreasing greenhouse gas emissions involved with the manufacture and disposal of unnecessary goods.

Acquisition Information

Nine-banded armadillos are the most common armadillo held in zoos, especially in the United States. However, US zoos have very few breeding populations so most animals come from non releasable rehab situations. Periodically, animals are available as surplus from Frank Knight at University of the Ozarks. Contact him directly (Google for contact info) to check and see if he has young animals available.

Comments from the Rating System

  • Maryland Zoo in Baltimore: Handling can be tricky, but they’re good animals overall.
  • Greensboro Science Center: Can be jumpy and quick moving. Larger size makes them a bit harder to handle for beginners. The challenge I have found is they don’t like to be held, but if you can let them run around, they are a good animal for programs. It is great to put her in a tray of water and show groups how she enjoys the water, since most people do not associate armadillos and swimming.
  • Philadelphia Zoo: Good for large audiences, very popular with visitors, straight-forward husbandry

Natural History Information

Range and Habitat

Nine-banded armadillos are the only species of armadillos found in the United States. They are found in the southern United States through Central America and most of South America. Their habitat varies widely, from prairies and deserts to tropical rainforests. It is estimated that between 30 and 50 million nine-banded armadillos live in the United States alone.

Physical Description

Hair is almost lacking on the upper parts of the body and is only sparsely scattered on the underparts of the body. Hairs are pale yellow in color, and the body underneath is mottled brown to yellow. Coloration is the same for both sexes, and there is no seasonal differences. Nine-banded armadillos have strong forelimbs and claws for digging. The “armor” is made up of dermal bone covered by tough epidermal scales, called scutes.
The length of the head and body is 9.5 to 22.5 inches, and the tail is another 5 to 19 inches. Nine-banded armadillos can weigh 12 to 22 pounds.

Life Cycle

Mating occurs in July and August, but the implantation of fertilized eggs are delayed until November (or for up to two years.) After implantation, there is a gestation period of 120 days. Armadillos give birth to four genetically identical young, which have developed from the same egg and share the same placenta. This is the only known mammal to do this.
Average lifespan for this species is 12 to 15 years.


These armadillos have a well-developed sense of smell and good hearing, but their eyesight is not as good. They can smell prey up to 8 inches deep in the soil. They are mostly nocturnal, although they can also be seen foraging for food during the day.
When alarmed, armadillos will hurry to their burrow. If overtaken, it will curl as much as possible around the soft underparts – but it cannot curl completely into a ball. Reactions to danger include jumping straight up into the air or inflating the body with air and floating away over a body of water.
Armadillos will sometimes share burrows with other armadillos, but only those of the opposite sex.

Threats and Conservation Status

This species is abundant in numbers and so has no special conservation status. In fact, members of the genus Dasypus are generally considered to be ecologically important due to their destruction of unwanted insects. That said, it is often hunted for food in South America.
Common predators include bobcats, large canids, and humans in their cars.

Did you know…

  • Nine-banded armadillos are used in medical research for diseases such as Hansen’s disease (leprosy), typhus, and trichinosis, as well as research on multiple births, organ transplants, and birth defects because nine-banded armadillos produce four genetically identical young with weak immune systems and relatively low body temperatures.




Any Documents to attach, species spotlights, etc.

Contributors and Citations

  • The Philadelphia Zoo
  • Houston Zoo, Natural Encounters
  • Greensboro Science Center

Top Photo: By Armadillo-Florida-3000x2175_4.4MB-2009.jpg: VladLazarenko (Armadillo-Florida-3000x2175_4.4MB-2009.jpg) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons