Here are 16 of the most popular animals that live underground, and are known for their underground shelters and unique burrowing habits.
See how many of these you already knew lived underground, and how many are completely new to you.
Let’s start with the quick reference list, then we’ll get into more detail.
- Mole – fossorial – spend almost all their time underground
- Fennec foxes – spend hot desert days in burrows
- The dwarf mongoose – create burrows near termite mounds
- Groundhog – they both live and hibernate in burrows
- Jerboa – live in desert burrows to escape the heat
- Bilby – live a solitary life mostly in a 6 feet burrow
- Pika – dwell underground as an easier nesting option
- Prairie dogs – live in complex underground burrow networks
- Chipmunk – dig two types of burrows for different uses
- Chinese pangolin – use their burrows mainly to sleep in
- Nine-banded armadillo – dig multiple burrows for quick refuge
- Weasel – live in simple short burrows with two entrances
- Wombat – can dig burrows up to ninety feet long
- Pocket gopher – will share their tunnels with other animals
- Red foxes – dig their own burrow or modify abandoned burrows
- Burrowing owl – the only owl species to live in a burrow
One of these animals features in our top 16 cutest animals list.
Also, another one features in our list of animals that live in the desert.
Animals that live underground
Naturally, there are varying degrees to which animals will dwell or spend time underground. Those that live primarily, but not permanently underground are considered to be fossorial animals and we have a few examples of those here.
These small burrowing animals have large hands and sharp claws that allow them to dig up swathes of tunnels underground with ease.
Add to this, their digging motion which replicates a kind of swimming stroke and they can make quick progress. They can dig up to 15-18 feet tunnels within an hour that match their body width.
They are considered fossorial, meaning they spend much of their life digging underground burrows for shelter.
2. Fennec foxes
Mostly found in the Sahara desert, fennec foxes are popularly kept as pets because of their unique and exotic looks.
They live in dense underground shelters in deserts and build their dens underground by using their feet as shovels to typically dig up to 3 feet deep.
They generally sleep through the day to avoid the most intense heat and sunlight, and their large ears also help them with cooling themselves throughout the day.
3. The Dwarf Mongoose
Known as the smallest species of mongoose, this animal is an underground dweller that mostly inhabits the eastern parts of the African continent.
They make their underground burrows in places where they can seek out sufficient termite mounds. Mainly as they also eat termites and in general, their diet mostly consists of insects.
Also known as woodchucks and sometimes the North American ground squirrels.
These animals actually enjoy digging to make shelters for themselves underground. They can ultimately create a deep and extensive burrow system.
The groundhog burrow typically has one main entrance that can be identified by a large mountain of excavated soil immediately outside the entrance hole.
Groundhogs dig their burrows inwards for several feet and then incline the tunnel upward for a few feet, creating a curved effect leading up to the entrance.
Why not check out our post on whether groundhogs hibernate in their burrows.
This is an extremely small rodent that is well known for its ability to jump high, supported by its long back legs.
These spring-like legs help Jerboas jump over distances of 10 feet in a single bound, which is a defense feature used to escape from predators.
They live underground in deserts and are nocturnal, so not much is known about this animal.
Here’s a list of the animals that live in deserts, including what types of deserts there are.
Featured with rabbit-like ears and back legs like a kangaroo, bilbies are a unique species that live in Australia.
They live in underground burrows that can be up to 6 feet deep, and they rarely move away from them.
They grow up to the size of a rabbit and live almost as solitary creatures their entire life, which is both sad and fascinating at the same time.
The Pika communicates using a unique whistling sound, so these animals are also called the whistling hares.
The main reason they live underground is that they find it difficult to locate good nesting spots above ground.
The burrows they build underground are also used to stock food for winter. The burrows Pikas build contribute to the quality of soil and also reduce erosion.
Pikas also feature in our top list of animals that live in the Tundra,
8. Prairie dogs
These underground dwellers live in the grasslands of North America. It’s easy to identify their burrows from the mounds of earth left near the entrance.
Their underground shelters can be extremely complex and have as many as 30 to 50 entrances and exits per acre.
With strong family bonds, their social structures are also just as complex as their homes.
See more about prairie dogs and hibernation.
Living in Asia and North America, these animals live underground in extensive burrows that can go up to 11 feet long.
They have cheek pouches that help them carry food to their burrows for storage. They often position their underground shelters near man-made covers and dig two types of burrows.
Shallow burrows are dug to seek refuge while foraging during the day, and deeper and complex burrows to store food and to spend the winter.
Just so you know, be sure to check out our chipmunk vs ground squirrel article.
10. Chinese pangolin
These underground dwellers create their shelter by using their scaled bodies and feet to kick dirt out of the entrance.
Chinese pangolins sleep in their burrows, and in winter, they relocate to new burrows dug near termite nests to make food sourcing easier during the harsh weather.
Their burrows are deep and contain circular chambers for sleeping and nesting.
11. Nine-banded armadillo
These underground dwellers are well-known for digging multiple burrows. They do this as a defense mechanism to seek refuge in case they feel threatened during foraging.
On average, they can have at least 5 to 10 burrows hidden inside a network of tunnels.
Found mostly in the Northern Hemisphere, these underground animals dig burrows that have two entrances. Their burrows stretch up to 10 feet long.
They locate their underground shelters among tall grass and thick underground. In some cases, weasels can also take over the burrows of other animals and make them their own.
These animals have powerful big claws and feet to help them dig efficiently. They can dig up to 3 ft of soil during one night.
Their burrows typically have various divisions and chambers, including one for sleeping. Their burrows can be up to 9 to 90 feet (3-30 m) long and up to 11 (3.5 m) deep.
In addition, these burrows can even be large enough for a small person to crawl in.
Check out these 20 amazing facts about Wombats.
14. Pocket gopher
Pocket gophers are fossorial rodents known for their underground tunnels with various burrowing chambers. Each chamber has a specific function. These underground animals are generous and will share their tunnel with other animals as well.
As another interesting point, pocket gophers get their name because they can turn their fur-lined pouches inside out when removing contents – much like a pocket.
15. Red foxes
Foxes have been known to dig burrows in which to give birth, raise pups, store food, or find shelter from the rain.
They are the largest variety of true foxes and can grow up to 18 to 35 inches in length.
Red foxes either dig their own underground burrows or modify the burrows abandoned by other underground animals.
Furthermore, Red fox burrows can extend 10-20 feet deep. Larger dens can have between 3-8 entrances and contain numerous dugout cavities, each of which will serve a specific function such as a food store and sleeping area.
16. Burrowing owl
Surprisingly, there is a specific type of owl that lives underground. They are native to Florida, Mexico, and some areas of South America
Known for its stunning looks, the burrowing owl is a type of owl that likes to invade and establish its shelters in underground burrows that were previously built and used by other animals.
They often use the burrows previously dug by animals such as skunks and prairie dogs. They can also dig their own burrows underground, which can be down to depths of 8 feet. Unlike many other types of owls, burrowing owls are active during the day.
Animals that live underground – more wildlife help!
We hope this has provided you with some in-depth knowledge of common animals that live underground. There are indeed many more. Such as earthworms for example. However, we thought this list would be the most varied and interesting. Also, be sure to check out our Ranger Planet YouTube Channel.