Appears in
Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

aardvark Orycteropus afer, an animal of southern Africa which is truly ‘one of a kind’; it has no relations, although it can be counted as a member of the category of anteaters. Dutch colonists gave it its name, which means ‘earth pig’, because it resembles in some respects the pig and because of the amazing efficiency with which it can burrow into the ground, notably to create the system of tunnels in which it lives. These tunnels have many entrances (or exits) and by retreating into them during daytime the aardvark achieves a fair degree of security against large predators. Its own food consists largely of termites, plus various insects, all of which it catches on its sticky tongue. It may cover a considerable distance during the night, guided by its excellent sense of smell, in search of such sustenance. Although it attains a large size (maximum length 1.8 m/6' maximum weight 100 kg/220 lb), it is rarely seen, due to its timorous and nocturnal habits.