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Intriguing Facts About the Three-toed Sloth

Suganya Sukumar
Three-toed sloths are one of the slowest creatures in the animal kingdom. Here are some interesting facts about this animal.
The Three-toed sloth is in a deep
and curious and wakeless sleep.
The boughs and branches bend and break,
but seldom does the sloth awake.
The noisy jungle far below
is not for three-toed sloths to know.

~ Jack Prelutsky
A simple way to describe this animal is that, it is often slimy and ever slow. They love hanging upside down, and they sometimes fall into the water, but they can swim very well. This animal moves with its belly sweeping the ground.

Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom - Animalia
  • Phylum - Chordata
  • Class - Mammalia
  • Order - Pilosa
  • Suborder - Folivora
  • Family - Bradypodidae
  • Genus - Bradypus
  • Bradypus pygmaeus
  • Bradypus torquatus
  • Bradypus tridactylus
  • Bradypus variegatus

Basic Facts

Physical Features

In their adult stage, they are 16 to 28 inches long and weight around 5.4 kg. Their body is covered with coarse long hair. It is almost the size of a large cat. Their forelegs are short and hind legs are long. Their feet is small and armed with three strong curved claws.
These are torpid animals, with a small head and short face. They are grayish-brown in color with small little black eyes, and they have more bones in their spines (vertebrae), as compared to their cousins, two-toed sloths, because of which they can turn their head farther in all directions.
They can also look at the forest floor, while they are hanging upside down. The sloths don't have any incisor or canine teeth, but just molar and premolar teeth which cannot be distinguished, and so they are referred to as called 'molariforms'.


They are arboreal animals which are found from Honduras to northern Argentina in the elevation range from sea level to 1800 feet. They inhabit the tropical forests of Central and South America. These sloths spend most of their time in the branches of the trees and they come down from the tree once in a week only.

Food Habit

These animals are herbivores. They eat fruits, shoots, leaves, twigs from the plants and trees. Because of its slow movement and inactive nature, the metabolism and digestion process in their body takes place very slowly, and so they don't have to move frequently in search of food.


They attain sexual maturity when they become two years old. Even while giving birth, the sloth hangs on tree. The females produce one young at a time and they carry it on its back. The young one will be born after a gestation period of 6 months. Once the front limbs of the young one is free, it clings to the fur of its mother.

Other Interesting Facts

  • The movement of these sloths are so slow, that it doesn't advance fifty to sixty paces in a day.
  • When this animal is at its slowest, even a snail can win the race between them.
  • It sleeps for 15 to 20 hours a day.
  • It doesn't undertake a change in place, but only to satisfy the hunger calls.
  • The sloth uses its claws for defensive purposes.
  • They use its mournful voice to repel other animals.
  • The cry of this sloth is so peculiar and the Spaniards on their first time arrival to South America, attributed it to some kind of European music.
  • The males have a bright orange or yellow patch on the fur beneath their shoulders, and this distinguishes them from their female partners.
  • The shape of their mouth is such that, it looks as if its smiling.
  • Because of their slowness, they become easy targets for the hunters, jaguars, vultures and eagles.
These species live for 25 to 30 years. They are now in the endangered list, of course due to deforestation and hunting. Along with the government initiatives, we should also take steps to save this species from getting extinct.