(Singular nouns: Fr-tatou carapace; Ger- Armadill-/Gürteltier-Rückenschild/Hautpanzer-?;
 Nor-beltedyr ???    ; Rus- ???  ???)

A.  Nine-banded Armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus Linnaeus, 1758) -- body length ~38-43cm (15-17 inches); tail ~36-40cm (14-16 inches).  (© 2006 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, from

DESCRIPTION:  Phylum, Chordata;  subphylum, Vertebrata; class, Mammalia;  order Xenarthra; family, Dasypodidae;  subfamily, Dasypodinae:  Armadillo carapaces comprise armor-like, chiefly dorsal, coverings that consist of several so-to-speak jointed plates -- e.g., seven to eleven on the so-called nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus Linnaeus, 1758).  Similar armor also covers most of the heads, parts of the legs and occurs as bands around the tails of most armadillos.  The plates consist chiefly of a keratinous layer atop “bony" scutes.   “Baby armadillos [, however,] have soft shells, like human fingernails... [that] get harder as the animal grows, depositing bone under the skin to make a solid shell.” (Nixon, 2005). 
     Colors - grayish to dark brown, uncommonly with lighter brown or greenish overtones;  babies' carapaces are pink.
     H.  ~2½ <<  an example of plate-like keratin-rich material.
     S.G. ~1.29 <<  an example of plate-like keratin-rich material.
     Light transmission - keratinous part is translucent to semitranslucent; underlying bony scutes are semitranslucent to opaque.
     Luster - dull to waxy
     Breakage - irregular
     Miscellaneous -  The keratinous layer is roughly leather-like and apparently makes up the so-called strip of skin that occurs between each adjacent pairs of "plates."   Hairs occur sporadically "growing from" the plates.

OTHER NAMES:  I have found none applied to decorative items fashioned from armadillo.  I have, however, heard them referred to as Texas turkeys and bushbullits in Texas slang.

USES:  Baskets that consist of dried armadillo shells are rather common decorative items, especially in Texas.  The armadillo's banded tail is curled over the shell to form a handle of many of these baskets.  The head is retained on some of them.

B. Armadillo carapace.  Basket fashioned from nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus Linnaeus, 1758)  -- see fourth paragraph of  REMARKS.   (© photo by Pat Hines)

              Charangos, are small Latin American guitars, that originally(?) and traditionally(!) have armadillo shells as the backs of their hollow bodies (sound boxes)  - see Rumbaut (1999).  They are a  popular instrument in "traditional" Latin American music.
              Stuffed armadillos in all sorts of poses are common showpieces in both commercial and private
decors -- especially in Texas.  As might be expected, they also are rather popular souvenirs for tourists.  (I recall that one of these was on Judge Harry T. Stone's office desk in the TV sitcom Night Court.)
Miscellany includes functional as well as decorative pieces.  Many of these functional pieces also serve as "show pieces" -- e.g.,  bread "baskets", ice buckets and lampshades. 

OCCURRENCES & NOTEWORTHY LOCALITIES:  Several species of armadillos are native to Latin America. These, along with the nine-banded armadillo of the United States east of the Rockies, mean that armadillos as a group occur as far north as southern Indiana and as far south as the tip of Argentina.  "Since they do not tolerate cold temperatures, several studies suggest that further northward [and southward] migration ... will be limited." (Mengak, 2005), at least until global warming causes effective climatic changes.  In any case, currently  "the nine-banded armadillo is the only one found in the United States ... [where it is fairly common in] Texas (east of the Pecos River), through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Arkansas, Oklahoma and the southern portions of Missouri and Kansas" (McPhee, 2004-2005) -- see map available on the internet (Avila, 1999).

REMARKS:  Armadillo is the diminutive form of the Spanish word armado, apparently meaning "little armored one."  Armado is derived from the Latin armar, to arm. These animals were apparently given this name by the famous Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez when he first saw them in Mexico in the early 1500s.  The origin for the scientific name Dasypus novemcinctus is also of interest.  Linnaeus, is said to have chosen Dasypus, which in old Greek refers to hairy footed animals, and, of course, novemcinctus is from Latin and refers to the nine bands of this species of armadillo.

Treatments used to prepare armadillos for fashioning baskets etc. require extensive cleaning to make the armor sanitary.  Subsequent shaping into the marketed objects include diverse processes -- e.g., baskets involve bending the tail and attaching it to the head to provide a handle, and most are lined with cloth, which is usually sewn into the carapace;  also, some are painted, etc

"About two million years ago a relative of the armadillo as large as a rhinoceros lived in South America and small cousins lived as far north as Canada. These [, however,] disappeared in the Ice Ages long before humans inhabited North America." (Mengak, 2005).       

Charles Apelt, a German basketmaker from Comfort, Texas, is said to have been the "inventor" of the Armadillo-shell basket.  Be this fact or fiction, his display of such baskets at the New York 1902 World’s Fair established its role on the kitsch marketplace. The Apelt Armadillo Company, which included a farm on which armadillos were raised, was a family enterprise that lasted until 1971 and is reported to have "shipped out hundreds of thousands of baskets, lamps, and other items ... more than twenty thousand armadillos and armadillo products in a single year." (Smith and Doughty, 1984, p.55).  In addition, it supplied live armadillos to individuals, research laboratories and zoos.

"Armadillos have been the subject of medical and scientific research in the reproductive physiology and genetics because of their unique abilities to clone... They are also used in leprosy [Hansen's disease] research. ... They are the only animal other than man that will consistently grow the [leprosy] bacilli under laboratory conditions. [Consequently,] Because of their unique susceptibility to leprosy they have been used to develop a vaccine against this ancient disease.” (McPhee, 2004-2005).  Additional information about armadillos and medical research are outlined by Klemm (2007).

In the late 1970s, a proposal to name the armadillo as the official state mammal of Texas was defeated. But, "in October1981, when Senator Ogg, serving as president pro tempore of the Senate, was sworn in as 'Governor for a day' ... [he] used his status to declare the armadillo the 'official state mascot' by executive decree." (Smith and Doughty, 1984, p.96)

An especially complete article about armadillos is given by Nixon (2005).  Several bits of interesting information about armadillos are given by Smith and Doughty (1984).

SIMULANTS: None, so far as I know, although some of the fashioners and marketers of "armadillo purses" made of fabrics that closely resemble armadillos might disagree;  in any case, I cannot see how anyone would ever misidentify any of these purses as fashioned from an armadillo.

REPLICAS:  Relatively small pewter and sterling silver replicas, some of which are covered with, for example, turquoise, have been fashioned and sold as pendants, pins, etc.;  armadillo-shaped fetishes have been carved from such things as pipestone (see GemRocks entry ARGILLITE), and the armadillo has served as the model/inspiration for all sorts of so-called works of art  (e.g., beadwork items, cartoons, ceramics, etchings, jewelry, mosaics, paintings, prints, puppets and wood carvings).  One wood carving genre is especially "eyecatching" --  labeled as an Oaxacan carving, it is noted as "whimisical and enchanting[,] ... imaginative and brilliantly colored [,] ... hand-carved (from native Copal wood) and hand-painted ...[by] the Zapotec Indians of Southern Mexico." (catalog of marketer);  if the illustration given is a good representation, the descriptive terms are understatements!   Klemm (op. cit.) also records  mahogany Costa Rica carvings, metal sculptures and concrete statuary replicas of armadillos.  Size- and else-wise, "The Armadillo" -- Sir Norman Foster's  world-famous convention and entertainment venue on the River Clyde in Glasgow, Scotland, is perhaps the most impressive of all replicas of zoogenic creatures.  

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