Armadillos, the state animal of Texas, are weird creatures. They are difficult to trap, spit like baseball players, and jump straight into traffic. We celebrated the oddness of these nocturnal animals earlier this summer, but we couldn't resist shelling out a few more tidbits. Here are eight things you might not know about the armored animals:
1. THEY ARE MAMMALS.
Armadillos are the only living mammals that sport shells.
2. THEY ARE THE ONLY ANIMALS THAT CARRY LEPROSY.
Authorities in Florida blamed a Summer 2015 outbreak of leprosy on armadillos, the only non-humans that can contract the rare, biblical disease. Though 95 percent of the population is resistant to the infection, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, residents were advised to avoid contact with armadillos. When cornered and caged, they tend to spit, spreading the disease.
3. THEY OFTEN GET HIT BY CARS.
Armadillos have an unfortunate habit of jumping straight up into the air when they get startled, Wile E. Coyote-style. The animals are small enough to pass safely under a car, but when scared they jump straight up into the undercarriage, according to the National Wildlife Federation.
4. THEY HAVE BEEN CALLED “THE POOR MAN’S PORK.”
During the Great Depression, Texans dined on armadillo meat, calling it the “poor man’s pork,” or for detractors of Depression-era president Herbert Hoover, the “Hoover hog.”
5. THEY SMELL.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department cautions that eating armadillo isn’t for the faint of heart: “Older males fairly reek, and few people who butcher one can stand to eat the meat.” When an armadillo gets excited, scent glands near its butt start working overtime, making the smelly animals even more pungent.
6. THE AZTECS CALLED THEM TURTLE RABBITS.
7. THEY'RE INSPIRATIONAL FIGURES.
In Oklahoma, motivational speaker and founder of the Put On Your Armor foundation, Armadillo Jim, has been traveling with "Arnie Armadillo" to promote school safety, coping with grief, and other issues since 1981. "Kids can relate to an animal that is misunderstood and looks weird," the speaker told The Oklahoman of using armadillos to help kids with cancer. He also runs armadillo races.
8. THEIR SHELLS ARE TOUGH.
Several people have been injured trying to kill armadillos. Armadillo shells are hard enough to cause a bullet to ricochet, which has resulted in several cases of bystander injury when people try to shoot the animals. Most animal control organizations recommend trapping and removing the animals from a yard, since repelling or killing them is usually ineffective (if not dangerous).