Vicious wombats

From Gail Collins’s NYT column yesterday, “Bye, Bye, John Boehner”:

under normal circumstances, [Speaker of the House John Boehner] would have used the Democratic votes to keep the government funded. Then the right wing would have descended on him like a band of vicious wombats.

I was taken aback by the vicious wombats. In my experience, wombats are seen as stupid and ridiculous, rather than dangerous. From Wikipedia:

In general, wombats are seen by many as being fat, slow, lazy animals, and are often mocked.

But wombats have powerful claws and sharp teeth, and they don’t like to be handled. So, from Wikipedia:

Humans can receive puncture wounds from wombat claws, as well as bites. Startled wombats can also charge humans and bowl them over, with the attendant risks of broken bones from the fall.

If you mess with a wombat, you might well see them as vicious, as some people seem to. (But they don’t travel in bands.)

Basic facts:

Wombats are short-legged, muscular quadrupedal marsupials native to Australia and are about 1 m (40 in) in length, with small, stubby tails. All are members of the family Vombatidae. They are adaptable and habitat tolerant

… Wombats dig extensive burrow systems with their rodent-like front teeth and powerful claws. … Although mainly crepuscular and nocturnal, wombats also venture out to feed on cool or overcast days. They are not commonly seen, but leave ample evidence of their passage … Wombats are herbivores; their diets consist mostly of grasses, sedges, herbs, bark, and roots. Their incisor teeth somewhat resemble those of the placental rodents (rats, mice, etc.), being adapted for gnawing tough vegetation … A group of wombats is known as a wisdom.

Common Wombat (Vombatus ursinus tasmaniensis) on Maria Island, Tasmania, Australia

The common name (and from it, the Latin name), first attested in the late 18th century, comes from the extinct Australian aboriginal language Dharug.

One Response to “Vicious wombats”

  1. chrishansenhome Says:

    When I was in Australia a couple of years ago, I went to a nature reserve in Adelaide, South Australia. Various cute marsupials and birds were there, including koalas (I paid to pet one) and wombats. The wombat was not allowed to mix with the people (unlike the kangaroos, who hopped around among us taking food from our hands–a really exciting experience). There was a sign on the wombat’s enclosure telling people in the strongest terms to stay away from the wombat and not to pet or try to feed it. It sat there looking slightly malevolent, and about the size of a large pot-bellied pig.

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