Armadillo: Possum on the Half Shell

Armadillos have horrible eyesight

Armadillo Cuisine: Cooking a Hoover Hog

Armadillos are an overlooked food animal, not protected by law, available throughout the year, and good tasting. And they have been expanding their range, with some found as far north as northern Missouri and Oregon. There’s an armadillo near you.

That said let’s take care of a persistent rumor. A 2008 study put to rest the belief that you can get leprosy from eating armadillo. Of some 2500 armadillos caught and tested in Florida, none had leprosy. And for many years researchers were hard pressed to find someone in the United States with leprosy who had actually been in physical contact with armadillos in the United States. This changed in 2015 with several cases reported in Florida, some involving contact. However means of transmission are vague and 95% of people are resistant to leprosy. For years the position has been there is no correlation between hunting armadillos, cleaning them or eating them and having leprosy. In fact traveling to Mexico increased your chances of leprosy more than Armadillos did. Armadillos can occasionally have leprosy — the only other mammal that can get it — but thorough cooking would take care of the problem if it occurred. So there is a bit of a mystery and a bit of risk. The solution, if one is going to eat armadillo, is to take precautions cleaning said and cooking thoroughly.

Charango, a ukulele-like instrument is tradtionally made fro an armadillo shell.

Charango, a ukulele-like instrument is tradtionally made fro an armadillo shell.

Armadillos eat the little invertebrates that live just under the leaf litter of shady forests. On their list of favorites are earth worms, grubs, beetle larvae, mole crickets, army worms, termites, yellow jackets, cockroaches, wasps, flies, grasshoppers, ant larvae and, for some reason, they also love egg shells. They have 40 peg-like teeth in the back of the mouth — read they can’t bite you — and pig-like snout  digging out wiggly delectables. Stay away from their claws, however. Those can hurt.  It’s been estimated that one armadillo can eat up to 40,000 ants in one meal. That’s four pounds of bugs a week, or 200 pounds each year. The entire population of North American armadillos is estimated to eat more than six billion pounds of insects per year. They’re good to have around.

There are 20 species of armadillos, including the three, six, and nine-banded armadillos. They’re named for the number of bands in their armor. The nine-banded armadillo (which has six species) is the only one to range into the United States. The nine-banded armadillos were first reported in the United States in 1849 (not 1949 as some copycat sites say.)  John James Audubon, who was known more in his day as a hunter than a naturalist, noted them in Texas in 1854. For more on Audubon, see Geiger Tree.

The nine-banded armadillo mates — missionary style — as early as July and as late as December and gives birth during the months of March and April, when not stressed or when climate conditions are at there best. They give birth to four identical young, quadruplets of the same sex . Full size they weight 8 to 17 pounds. Armadillos are prolific and there is an estimated 50 million of them in the United States. Fire up the barbie! The Nine-banded Armadillo is also the most numerous armadillo. They’re known by a variety of local names. Armado in Guatemala and Panama. Cachicamo in Venezuela, Carachupa in Peru, Cusuco in Costa Rica, Kapasi in Suriname, , in Argentina, and Tatu Galinha in Brazil.

What their scientific name, Dasypus novemcinctus ( DAS-ih-puhs noh-VEM-sink-tuhs) means is a bit of a nonsensical dispute. Dasypus novemcinctus literally means “hairy foot nine girdle.”  That’s the interpretation if one thinks “Dasypus” is two Greek words put together meaning hairy foot. Dasis does mean hairy or bushy. Pous is a common term for foot.  The other view is that it came from an Ancient Greek word for rabbit “dasypodis.” I suspect both are right, that dasypodis meant rabbit and also hairy foot.  More to the point, the Aztecs called the the armadillo Azotochtli, or “turtle rabbit.” so when it was being named by Carl Linnaeus there was an effort to keep “rabbit” in the reference. More so, without their shell the armadillo resembles a rabbit but tastes more like fine-grained, high-quality pork.

The US population of armadillos had its start in two places. First it moved into Texas from Mexico and about a century later crossed the Mississippi. At the same time, armadillos became roadside attractions in Florida. Their unintentional liberation started a Florida group. Around the 1970s the separate populations met and merged in the Florida panhandle. Generally said armadillos are most abundant within 100 miles of the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico but are found throughout the South north to Nebraska and Missouri.

Florida Crackers have been enjoying fried armadillo for more than 100 years. The easy-to-catch animals provided meat for many a pioneer household. They got the nicknames  “possum on the half-shell” and later during the Great Depression they were called “Hoover Hogs.” At the time President Hoover was promising a “chicken in every pot” but people were so poor all they could eat was what they could catch, including armadillo. Many people parboil the meat and trim off all fat, which gets rid of any wild game taste. Then they fry it but that is not necessary. It can be used as is in stews and the like.

Armadillos typically rest in a deep burrow during the day and become more active during the late evening, night, or early morning. These burrows are usually located under brush piles, stumps, rock piles, dense brush, or concrete patios, and are about 7-8 inches in diameter and can be up to 15 feet long. There are several live-trapping techniques that can be used to capture armadillos when they come out of their burrows. One is to firmly insert a 6-inch diameter PVC pipe into the entrance of an active burrow. Regular-sized armadillos will get stuck in the pipe as they try to exit. A nylon throw-net used for fishing can also be staked down so it covers the burrow entrance. Armadillos will get tangled in the net as they emerge. Another trapping technique involves burying a large bucket (larger than five gallons) in front of the entrance, and covering it with newspaper or plastic sheeting and a light layer of soil. Their eyesight is so poor they fall into it.

Armadillos can also be trapped in raccoon-sized, metal, cage live traps or in homemade box traps. Traps should be located near the entrance of burrows or along fences or other barriers where they might travel. This trap is most effective when “wings” (1 x 6 inch x 6 feet boards or other material) are added to funnel the animal into the trap. Suggested baits are live earthworms or mealworms placed in hanging bags made of old nylon stockings. Other suggested baits are overripe or spoiled fruit. Armadillos are more likely to enter a cage trap when leaf litter or soil is placed over the bottom. Because armadillos are nocturnal, all trapping techniques designed to capture armadillos emerging from burrows should be applied late in the afternoon and checked several hours after darkness.

Besides poor eyesight Armadillos also have poor hearing. They do however, have a keen sense of smell, so get thee downwind. They like dense shady cover,  such as brush, woodland or pine forests. The texture of the soil is also important. They prefer sandy or loam soils that are relatively easy to rummage through.  Compared to other common mammals such as raccoon and opossum, armadillos are remarkably free of parasites. Rabies has never been diagnosed in armadillos in Florida.

Armadillos are one of the most common victims of highway mortality in Florida. The armadillo’s instinctive response of jumping upwards three or four feet when startled may be effective at avoiding a lunging predator, but not an automobile or truck passing overhead. As long as there are highways it makes one wonder if that trait will be bred out.

Shooting is another method frequently used to control or obtain armadillos. Recommended firearms are a shotgun with No. 4 to BB-sized shot or .22 or other small caliber rifle. It is illegal in most places to use artificial lights to aid in the shooting of armadillos at night.

You should skin and dress an armadillo as soon as possible. The easiest method is to skin from the underside to split the skin from the neck most the way down to the tail, best be careful not to puncture the abdominal cavity. You’ll need a sharp knife. Peel the animal out as you would a squirrel or rabbit. Remove all fat from under the front and back legs and wash meat thoroughly. After meat is cleaned completely, cut into quarters.

In some South American countries they cook the armadillo in the shell on the grill (after gutting it) split side down. It is then eaten out of the shell.  One can do the same thing near an open camp fire getting rid of the need for pots or pans.

On You Tube my video #70 at the end shows how close one can get to an armadillo.

*A large statistical analysis infers some Armadillos must of had leprosy but an actual animal with it is difficult to find in U.S. And people in the United States who get leprosy usually have in connection with travel and armadillos in Mexico.


1 armadillo (or more), removed from shell (reserve to make a musical instrument.)



Chunks of apple & pineapple (about 1 1/2 c. each)

1/2 c. butter

An armadillo produces a lot of meat. The smaller ones are best for frying; the older ones need to be cooked slowly for a long time to ensure tenderness. After cutting carcass out of the shell, thoroughly wash meat. Salt and pepper armadillo. Stuff with chunks of apple and pineapple. Coat with butter and wrap in foil and place in roasting pan. Bake in a 325 degree oven until internal temperature reaches 180 degrees. Allow 30-45 minutes per pound. Allow 1/3 pound of meat per serving.


1 armadillo, cut into pieces

2 med. potatoes

2 onions, sliced

2 carrots, coin chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

1 bay leaf

1/4 tsp. thyme

1/2 c. butter

1/2 c. flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

Dust armadillo meat in flour, salt, and pepper. Brown on both sides in the butter. Put enough water in pot to cover after adding remaining vegetables. Cover and simmer until meat is tender, about 2 hours. Add seasoned flour and water to thicken liquid.

Armadillo Chili

3 1/2 to 4 lbs.  armadillo cut into 1/4 inch cubes

2 c. diced onion

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1/4 c. vegetable oil

28 oz. crushed tomatoes

1 3/4 c. water or beer

1 dried milk red chili pod

1/2 tsp. oregano

1 tbsp. liquid smoke and/or 2 tsp. masa harina (optional)

2 med. green bell peppers, diced

2 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. sugar

28 oz. can tomatoes

12 oz. tomato paste

1 tsp. ground cumin

Cut and remove stem and most of the seeds from chili pod. Tear pod up into small pieces. Then place in heavy pan and toast over medium low heat till crisp. Let cool. Crumble or crush into powder. Put oil in 5 quart or larger heavy pan, heat to medium high, add meat 1/3 at a time and brown. Remove meat as it browns Stir onions, peppers, garlic and powdered chili into hot oil. Continue cooking and stirring until tender. Add remaining ingredients, stir. Return browned meat to pan, continue stirring until mixture begins to boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer 1 hour. Stir often or till meat is tender. Pour into serving bowls, add hot chili sauce or hot salsa to suit taste. Garnish with shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese and chopped onion. Note: May substitute chili pod. ground cumin and oregano with 4 teaspoons commercially prepared chili powder. May add more water and/or tomato sauce while preparing, if you prefer soupier.


Place serving size pieces in a stew pot with a little water and gently boil until meat is tender, about 1/2 hour. Remove meat and cool; roll in flour with salt and pepper. Put in skillet of hot cooking oil. Brown on both sides. Cover skillet and cook 20 to 30 minutes. Add chicken broth, if needed.


1 armadillo

11/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. paprika

1/2 c. flour

3 tbsp. fat

3 lg. onions, sliced

1 c. sour cream

Soak meat overnight in salted water (1 tablespoon salt to 1 quart water). Drain, disjoint and cut up. Season with 1 teaspoon salt, paprika, roll into flour and fry in fat until browned. Cover meat with onion, sprinkle onions with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Pour in the cream. Cover skillet tightly and simmer for 1 hour.


11/2 lbs. ground meat

2 eggs, beaten

1/8 c. dry crumbs

1 c. evaporated milk

1/4 onion, minced or grated

1/4 tsp. thyme

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

Soak meat overnight in salted water (1 tablespoon salt to 1 quart water). Remove meat from bones and grind. Mix thoroughly with other ingredients. Place in meat loaf dish. Place dish in pan containing hot water. Bake in a moderate oven, 350 degrees for 11/4 hours to 2 hours.

MARINADE MEAT SAUCE Combine all marinade ingredients, stirring well. Prepare armadillo meat by cleaning and cutting into serving pieces. Marinate for 24 hours. Remove from solution and allow to drain for 30 minutes before cooking. In a heavy black iron pot, brown sausage and armadillo in hot oil, permitting meat to stick to bottom of pot just a little for extra flavor. Remove armadillo from pot and set aside leaving sausage in pot. Add onions, green pepper, garlic and celery; stir continuously, cooking until tender. Add steak sauce, pick-a-peppa sauce, salt, pepper, MSG, and Worcestershire sauce; mix well. Add armadillo and water. Heat to boiling; reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Reduce to low heat and cover with tight lid. Cook until tender. (Do not stir but take pot by handle and half-spin from left to right every 10 minutes). Add mushrooms and wine; blend gently with a spoon. Sprinkle with parsley and lay thin lemon slices on top. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Serve over rice.

Sloppy Joes for 50

8 lbs. ground armadillo

1 c. chopped onion

1 c. chopped celery

1 c. chopped, cored & peeled apple

2 qts. tomato sauce

1/2 c. brown sugar

2 tbsp. mustard

1/2 c. vinegar

Brown meat. aute celery, onion and apples with 1/4 cup vegetable oil. Combine ingredients for sauce and simmer for 15 minutes. Add sauce to meat, onion, celery and apple mixture. Serve with big buns. Plan to make this 1 day before you need it served because it always tastes better as a leftover (this will also allow the opportunity to upgrade your road kill!)


{ 24 comments… add one }
  • Chris October 28, 2011, 11:03 am

    Thanks for looking into the question of the leprosy. Many a times I’ve thought about snagging one of these little suckers ,but older conversations with my father about them carrying leprosy usually stopped me.
    And the whole thing about being able to walk up on them if you are down wind is very true. On occasion I’ve actually taped them out of my way by boot or walking stick because they had no idea I was there.

  • Robert M. November 20, 2011, 12:38 am

    [quote]Florida Crackers have been enjoying fried armadillo for more than 100 years.[/quote]

    I am not one of them. Enjoying fried diller that is. I would only eat one if I had to and was literally starving to death. They have poor eyesight but good sense of smell and hearing. I have “plugged” my share of them only because they have been a menace to rooting up Bahaia lawns. I have had St. Augustine lawn for a while now with no diller problems other than the occasional odd one in the flower beds. As long as there are other small game that can be had, diller will be at the bottom of the menu.

  • Paul Deffes January 4, 2013, 5:58 pm

    Great post Deane. I’m going to have to try it sometime.

  • james March 2, 2013, 9:48 am

    Another good article. I ate armadillo when I was a boy before I was told about the leprosy thing. I didnt get leprosy, and I have never met any one who did. Do you have any good recipes for fire ants ?

  • james March 2, 2013, 9:51 am

    And that reminds me of something. The leprosy thing I mean. Have you heard that pigs carry Trichinosis ? Its this horrible viral thing that eats your muscles. Man , when word gets out about that, the bacon market is going to CRASH !

  • Frank June 13, 2013, 2:07 pm

    Great information! I had one question that you did not address. Do Armadillos carry Rabies? If so do I need to be worried about handling them or eating them?

  • Rickey vaughan July 26, 2013, 8:06 am

    Seriously Where can I purchase aramadillo meat ?????

    • Terry April 3, 2015, 10:46 am

      Google it, I found it for sale on (which I found via Google) but haven’t yet purchased from them.

  • Coon-Ass Joe June 4, 2014, 11:08 pm

    Yeehaw! Them little fellers are them thar good eatin’. Luv me some diller confit on a bed of blanched arugula with a raspberry reduction and a fried egg on top.

  • Ray House October 3, 2014, 1:17 am

    I’ve cooked and eaten armadillo a couple of times. I swear it’s best tasting wild meat I’be ever eaten. Very much like pork. Even looks like a small pig when cleaned. That was 15 years ago and I still have all of my body parts ! I’ve also caught a bunch of them as they are very easy to catch by hand.

  • Julie March 10, 2015, 3:22 pm

    Thank you. My dad often served opossum and raccoon when I was a child, but I can’t remember ever eating armadillo. The armadillo population has swollen a great deal here at the ole home place, so it’s nice to know I can utilize that resource.

  • D.Pippin May 27, 2015, 11:16 am

    When I was a youngster, back in the 30’s times were pretty tough with the depression and the War about to start. We ate Hoover Hogs real often. My Grandmother could cook a stick and make it taste good. I never got leprosy either.

  • Mike August 13, 2015, 8:00 pm

    Enjoyed reading this. I live in north Louisiana, but bet someone down in New Orleans eats them, and knows best way to cook them. Loved turtle soup. I would certainly try it. Lots of recipes about here.

    • Green Deane August 13, 2015, 8:54 pm

      The Cajun motto is: If it moves, it’s edible.

      • Steve January 12, 2016, 5:25 pm

        Lowreys makes a cajun marinade, and with many wild meats, if well marinaded, and then smoked, it can be as good as any fine plate of lobster!

  • missouri julie August 15, 2015, 4:31 pm

    To James – relax! Trichinosis in pork is virtually no longer a problem. Most hog operations are crazy about keeping their animals isolated from any form of infection, and virtually all pork is frozen to a mandatory low temperature for a prescribed amount of time in order to kill any parasites. Be sure if you are doing a wild hog to wear gloves and eat it well cooked if you do not freeze treat the meat. You can check online for the temp and time needed.

  • Doug September 23, 2015, 11:42 am

    Many years ago, I had BBQ armadillo at an outdoor event that also involved adult beverages and young folks. I recall it as being delicious and high quality meat. Also, that I dared not tell my mom because of the myths regarding leprosy. Raised on a farm in southern Louisiana, we encountered them nearly daily, but my only culinary experience was with the group of folks at that barbecue. I am now almost entirely vegetarian but reading these posts tempts me to pop one and try one of the recipes in the article. My feeling is that it is likely far safer than the grain fed, growth hormone and preservative infused meats that we buy in the store. I know I’ll have to cook it while my wife isn’t home or I’ll soon be hiring a divorce lawyer. She is not a food pioneer.

  • Tom January 11, 2016, 4:51 am

    Regarding the presence of leprosy in armadillos, three things:

    1. Can someone provide a reference for the 2008 study mentioned by the blog article’s author?

    2. An article in the New England Journal of Medicine from 2011 is quite revealing — Probable Zoonotic Leprosy in the Southern United States. Although the title is a sleeper, if you’re brave, you can find it here:

    3. Regarding eating armadillo meat, per the article above, “Frequent direct contact with armadillos and cooking and consumption of armadillo meat should be discouraged.”

    In short, there is definitely a connection between leprosy and armadillos, and between the presence of leprosy in armadillos and its presence in humans in the U.S. They share the same strain of the virus, present no where else in the world.

    • Green Deane January 11, 2016, 9:31 am

      “Probable” was the first word not “definite” and that is the problem. A real case of person A getting leprosy from armadillo B, direct contact, is tough despite decades of looking. However there might have been one — count it, one — last year in Florida and that did not involve careful capture or consumption. Armadillo is common food in other parts of the world. Most cases of leprosy in the US come from travelers to Mexico who have no contact with armadillos. Said another way when it comes to leprosy it is safer to eat Armadillo in Florida than travel to Mexico and avoid it. Bizarre.

      • Tom January 11, 2016, 11:21 am


        That made me laugh, thanks! Have you ever in your life heard or seen an academic say or write that anything was “definite”? In case you have little exposure to academia (don’t know), take my word for it that the language in that article is as “definite” as you’ll ever see.


        • Green Deane January 11, 2016, 1:37 pm

          People have and are eating armadillo. There hasn’t been nor is there a blip on the leprosy screen. Indeed, it is the travelers not the eaters who seem to get most if not almost all of the cases (that one last year locally an exception. If I remember correctly someone was trying to trap one.) I think leprosy-in-armadillos is an issue that generates income for some researchers but doesn’t translate into much in the practical world. The strongest evidence to date has been statistical inference. And of course the disease is easily curable now. Where they eat armadillo handling practices seem protective. I’m not sure it rises to the level of being an issue.

          • Tom January 12, 2016, 12:04 pm


            Maybe you’re right by saying it might not rise to the level of a practical issue, even for people who handle/eat armadillos.

            However, I did just run across an update to that 2011 article, this time from the CDC, in which they removed the word “probable” from the title for good reason. The infected area has expanded. Additionally, they found leprosy in armadillos in every sampling area, and in nearly 20% of all animals tested.

            Heads-up: The first time they say that Florida has no evidence of leprosy, it is a historical statement. That has changed.


  • jungle jim bob March 1, 2016, 6:28 pm

    Used to go out after a rain when their food comes to top of ground and they are hunting and sneek up on them downwind and grab by tail and beat on tree until dead. Clean and great barbequed

  • Michael August 16, 2016, 5:19 pm

    “One 11-bp indel (indel_17915) was particularly important, since the 3I strains have only one copy of the sequence (TTGGTGGTGTA, in pseudogene ML0014), whereas all other M. leprae strains have two copies.”

    Even though this appears to be extremely close the bacterium responsible for leprosy, the lack of the second genetic chain could explain why this specific strain is not infectious to humans.

    “Among the 50 U.S. patients examined … , 39 reported a residence history in areas of the United States or Mexico where endemic exposure to armadillo-borne M. leprae was possible, and 29 of these 39 had no history of foreign residence.”

    So… Out of 50 cases studied, only 29 of these folks had never lived outside the US. Of these 29, how many lived in areas within the US which DO have endemic leprosy; i.e., Louisiana, etc.?

Leave a Comment