Beavers may seem like a distant relation to humans, but they actually belong to the same taxonomic order as some of the animals we are much more familiar with – rats, gophers, squirrels, and more. One characteristic that is common amongst these species is their teeth.
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Thanks to a special protective enamel layer, beavers’ teeth have a striking orange hue and continuously grow, meaning that beavers need to continuously gnaw and chomp away at materials in their besotted woodlands so as not to overgrow.
It’s easy to recognize beavers due to their large tails that look like flat paddles, measuring approximately 10 inches (25 cm) long and covered in black scales. Apart from their tail, beavers boast sleek, glossy fur that appears brownish in colour and is water-resistant due to its two layers–the outer layer of fur and underneath the protective guard hairs.
Their teeth are larger than those of other rodents, allowing them to efficiently chew down trees for food and make dams out of sticks and mud. Other creatures similar in appearance include capybaras, muskrats, nutrias, gophers, rats, and groundhogs; however, beavers stand out amongst them with their wide tails and hardworking nature.
Below is the list of all animals which share the same characteristics as beavers.
1. Southeastern Pocket Gopher
Scientific name: Geomys pinetis
Brief summary: The big teeth, sharp claws, and brown hair of Southeastern pocket gophers are similar to those of beavers.
Pocket gophers are small and relatively quiet members of the same suborder of beavers, Castorimorpha. Along with their close cousins, they share a similar appearance that often gets them mistaken for one another. Their most distinctive feature is their long incisors – which actually grow every day!
The upper teeth grow about 0.35 mm and the lower 0.67 mm daily, allowing pocket gophers to easily pry up roots as they burrow through the soil. With brownish fur, long claws, and whiskery noses with large nostrils, these critters are quite endearing despite their tiny size.
Scientific name: Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris
Brief summary: Like beavers, capybaras have ears and eyes on top of their heads for swimming.
The most distinguishing physical feature between capybaras and beavers, other than their size, is the tail. While beavers have flat, paddle-like tails, capybaras have low and scaly tails that are relatively thin. That being said, both species share many similar features. Capybaras and beavers have protruding incisors that constantly grow which they use to help them eat food.
They both have robust bodies with a humped backside. Both are semi-aquatic animals, meaning they can spend time in and out of the water; their eyes are also set on the top of their head like beavers. Lastly, both species tend to have a brownish hue of fur/hair around parts of their body. Because many of these attributes overlap between the two species, it can be tricky to tell them apart while they’re in the water!
Scientific name: Marmota monax
Brief summary: Like a beaver, groundhogs have broad tails that are furry rather than scaly.
The impressive tail of a groundhog is hard to miss, as it can measure up to 25 per cent of the animal’s total body length. Unlike other rodents, such as mice and rats who have tails that are thin and tapering, the tail of a groundhog is as broad and flat as a beaver’s.
This similarity in overall shape and colour often causes confusion when attempting to distinguish between their two species–but don’t be fooled! A key difference between them is that the tail of a groundhog has much more fur on it than the hairless tail of a beaver.
4. Conover’s Tuco-tuco
Scientific name: Ctenomys conoveri
Brief summary: Similar to beavers, this species of tuco-tuco has vivid orange enamel on its teeth.
Conover’s tuco-tucos may be small, weighing only two pounds compared to the average beaver, but they are still quite impressive. Their teeth have the same characteristic bright orange enamel layer as a beaver’s and their thick brown fur is reminiscent of its larger cousin. Not forgetting to mention their equally long whiskers and sharp claws at the end of their feet, you’d almost think that these little creatures were mini-beavers in disguise!
5. Stump-tailed Porcupine
Scientific name: Coendou rufescens
Brief summary: The darker spines of this species of porcupine give it a more beaver-like appearance than those of other species.
The stump-tailed porcupine might look like a small beaver as it shuffles along, but one major heritable difference is its tail—or rather lack of it. Where you’d usually expect to see a long, paddle-like tail, these porcupines instead have a skinny little stub.
Its reddish-brown fur adds to the illusion of beaver squareness, helping its quills blend in against its back and making its backsides appear higher than its fronts when they move around.
As if this weren’t enough, the fur on a beaver’s body looks glossy in the water but takes on an almost spiky texture as it dries—not unlike the prickly quills of a porcupine! Altogether, this mix of habits and appearances creates an uncanny resemblance between these two animals that coax quite the double take from any onlooker.
6. Bristle-spined Rat
Scientific name: Chaetomys subspinosus
Brief summary: These rats’ brown bristles resemble the spiky fur of beavers.
The bristle-spined rat is an interesting creature often mistaken for a rat, but it is actually a type of porcupine. It has some features that make it strikingly similar to beavers. For example, their large incisors may not stick out like other rodents’ teeth do, much like beavers’.
Furthermore, the shape and colour of their noses are distinctively round and different from the rest of their faces in a manner similar to beavers. Additionally, they share similarly brown fur with beavers, only generally lighter in colour than their counterparts and with thinner scaly tails instead of wide ones.
Clearly, this species has taken cues from its cousin the beaver when it comes to certain morphological characteristics.
Scientific name: Myocastor coypus
Brief summary: Nutrias, like their beaver cousins, have waterproof hair and bright orange teeth.
Nutrias, also known as coypus, are members of the Myocastoridae family, which is in a separate suborder from the beaver. In spite of their structural differences, nutrias and beavers share some aesthetic resemblances. Both animals feature the same reddish-brown fur on their back and coarse guard hairs to protect them while wading in water.
Nutrias have not only inherited orange teeth from their beaver relatives but also webbed feet and claws that help them swim swiftly. And lastly, both animals boast a similar facial shape with blunt noses and long whiskers adorning their faces.
cientific name: Ondatra zibethicus
Brief summary: Muskrats, with their thick brown fur and webbed toes, resemble miniature beavers.
Muskrats may be more similar to rats than beavers, but they share many features with the latter. At up to four pounds in weight, they’re much smaller than beavers, though their large heads relative to their body size make them look quite similar. Moreover, muskrats also have thick furs of dark brown colour which help them insulate while swimming and webbed feet that offer aquatic adaptations.
While rats mostly swim by paddling with their hind legs and using the tail for stability, the muskrats’ adapted feet serve as an extra propelling force when navigating in water.
9. Northern Water Vole
Scientific name: Arvicola amphibious
Brief summary: Water voles are smaller than beavers, yet they have the same circular body shape and flat ears.
Although water voles and beavers may appear similar at first glance, they are in fact different species of lilfur critters. Both have round, stout bodies and brownish fur, but their habitats reveal the difference between them.
Water voles love living near slower-moving water sources such as rivers or streams, where they can often be seen sitting right on the edge. On the other hand, beavers construct and live within intricate lodge homes near larger bodies of water.
These lodges provide safety for their inhabitants from predators, while the water vole’s only protection comes from the location of their habitat.
10. Hoary Marmot
Scientific name: Marmota caligata
Brief summary: Hoary marmots are around the size of little beavers and have teeth and noses that are comparable.
The hoary marmot is an impressive animal – not only is it the largest American marmot, coming close to matching the size of a beaver at up to 30 pounds in weight, but it has similar physical characteristics too. These burrowing creatures share much in common with beavers, from their round noses, flat tails and large incisors, to their coat colour changing with the seasons.
In the winter they are a hoary whitish colour, while in summer they are much closer to the brown shade of a beaver. It’s no surprise that this Rodentia family member can best a smaller opponent such as a fox in strength, making them formidable ground dwellers for all times of the year.
11. American Minks
American minks are small semi-aquatic mammals from the Mustelidae family endearing North America. Like beavers, these creatures prefer to live in bodies of water like marshes, as well as rivers and streams.
Although minks have shorter, more slender builds than beavers at around 45 centimetres, other similarities between the two exist. Both animals have feet connected by webbing and their tail shapes can aid in identification; American mink have a bushy tails compared to beavers’ paddle-shaped ones. In addition, mink are carnivores whereas beavers are herbivorous. These differences showcase the unique characteristics of these two creatures.
What other animal looks like a beaver?
What animal looks like a big beaver?
What small animal looks like a beaver?
What are beavers mistaken for?
Beavers and muskrats are easy to distinguish on land, but they might be difficult to distinguish in the water.
Because of their size and behaviour, beavers are easily recognizable. However, they do share features with other, smaller rodents. Beavers have very large front teeth which allow them to chew through wood, much like the other members of their family. Other than size, beavers have a thick brown coat of fur which many rodents have in common.
Additionally, they have webbed feet which aid them while swimming; muskrats and nutrias also have this trait. So while it’s easy to spot a beaver due to its size and behaviour, it can also be harder to distinguish it from its animal cousins since they share several physical features with each other.
Growing up enjoying the beauty of my village, a good passion for nature developed in me from childhood. Following my passion for the natural world, I have chosen zoology for my graduation, during my undergraduate degree, I participated in many nature trails, bird watching, rescues, training for wildlife conservation, workshop, and seminars on biodiversity. I have a keen interest in invertebrate biology, herpetology, and ornithology. Primary interests include studies on taxonomy, ecology, habitat and behavior.