Meet The Bilby―Officially The Cutest Animal You've Probably Never Heard Of
Upon first glance, the bilby is a confusing little creature. This animal has the ears of a bunny, small-scale kangaroo legs, a long black rat tail, a pointed nose, and is about the size of a small house cat. This little Frankenstein cutie may look like an experiment in animal breeding, but it's an experiment that went oh-so-right.
Bilbies are cute, but what exactly are they? Their secretive nature has made them difficult to study at times but turns out there's quite a bit to these so-called "rabbit bandicoots." Some of their traits are fascinating...and a little unnerving. If you thought rabbits breed like crazy, wait until you hear what these guys manage. They also have a rather sad history. Due to outside animal invaders, bilbies have perched precariously on the edge of extinction multiple times.
Those still wondering "what is a bilby?" get ready for all the facts you need to be an expert in bilby-ness. If you've never heard of these guys, read on, you'll soon be squealing about your new favorite animal.
They Have A Bunch Of Different Names, Among Which Little Bunny Roo-Roo Is Not OnePhoto: Greens MPs / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0
Of course, the name "bilby" itself is pretty cool but its not this creature's only moniker. The name originally comes from the Yuwaalaraay Aborigines, a tribe that lives in New South Wales, and it translates roughly to "long-nosed rat." However, because there are many different aboriginal groups throughout the country, this isn't its only tribal name.
The animal is also called the pinkie, ninu, walpajirri, dalgyte, and the rabbit bandicoot or rabbit-eared bandicoot. While the bilby is in the same family as the bandicoot (yes, it's a real animal, not just a video game character) and looks somewhat similar, especially both specie's nose-shape, it's more kangaroo-like body and ears give it a competitive cuteness edge.
Their Long Flexible Ears Aren't Just For LooksVideo: YouTube
You might see the word "rabbit" thrown around a lot in relation to the bilby, and that's for a pretty good reason. The ears of the bilby are long and resemble that of a bunny. Not only do these huge ears mean the bilby can hear really well, it also means that they can regulate their temperature more easily.
On top of all that, their ears are intensely mobile. They can be rotated, tucked flat to the body, put out to either side, moved separately from each other, and can even be folded in half if need be. This ability is beneficial for hearing both prey and predators. Not to mention the versatility such ears provide for striking that perfect adorbs bilby selfie.
Bilbies Don't Need To Drink Water Like Other SupermodelsPhoto: Sardaka / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0
This might seem like a shocker. After all, don't all animals drink water? As it turns out, several mammals in Australia don't actually need to drink water in order to hydrate, including the Koala and, you guessed it, the bilby. Instead, the bilby has a diet of moisture and water-rich food to absorb water from, including both plants and animals.
This omnivorous flexibility is what enables the animal to survive. In order to help with this survival, the Bilby does not come out during the day, conserving its body moisture by avoiding the heat and sunlight that would otherwise dry it out. On occasion, the bilby may take advantage of water if it is available, but it generally doesn't need to find a lake, pond, river, or even puddle in order to get by.
They Really Need EyeglassesPhoto: D Coetzee / Flickr / Public Domain
Although their little black eyes are like tiny little black diamonds adorning their precious faces, the bilby's eyes are of little use. Unfortunately, bilbies have very poor eyesight, and rely more on their ears, nose, and whiskers to find their way about the world. They don't even use their vision much when tracking down things to eat.
Despite their keen senses of smell and hearing, their eyesight is a large reason invasive species have preyed on the bilby and caused their population to decline. Glasses just wouldn't go with the bilby's overall look.
Bilbies Are Too Hawt To Fear FirePhoto: Bernard DUPONT / Flickr / CC-BY-SA 2.0
Fires tend to be a major problem for most species, but it's not always the worst thing for the bilby. Research has shown that bilbies can actually benefit from brush fires, because of the impact that fire has on their habitat. Certain plants grow quickly and well after a fire has passed, and bilbies love to munch on those kinds of plants.
Because they are both smart and pretty, the bilby will hide in their underground burrows until a wildfire has burnt out. Those cute little homes also help the bilby's local ecosystem by providing shelter to other creatures and changing soil conditions, such as temperature and humidity, so seeds will grow.
Bilbies Have Serious Beef With BunniesPhoto: philipbouchard / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0
Australia has a serious rabbit problem. They aren't native to Australia and since being introduced there, they have done horrible things to the native animal populations and wildlife. The government has even taken action to control the rabbit problem.
Rabbits have especially proven a pest to the poor bilbies. Rabbits have encroached on the bilby's habitat, food supply, and efforts to poison rabbits have been just as murderous to bilbies as rabbits. Thus Australians would rather see an Easter Bilby over that pest the Easter Bunny. They are actively trying to replace the Easter bunny with the Easter Bilby. Chocolate bilbies are available in stores instead of chocolate bunnies and stories of the Easter Bilby have been written for kids.