What's the difference between
a groundhog and a gopher?

Groundhog PortraitPortrait of a Groundhog

So what's the difference between a groundhog and a gopher? And where do woodchucks and whistle-pigs fit in?

Well, all of the animals in this discussion are rodents. But some are from the family Scuridae, which are squirrel-like rodents, and some are from the family Geomyidae, which are beaver-like rodents.

Marmots are ground dwelling members of the squirrel family, Sciuridae. They are of the genus marmota, characterized by thick, powerful bodies, flat heads and strong claws.

There are about 15 species of marmots found around the world, many of whom inhabit mountainous areas. The groundhog is one species of marmot which is found in North America, and lives in lower elevations, meadows and grasslands.

So, rule number 1: Not all marmots are groundhogs, but all groundhogs are marmots

groundhog facts
baby groundhogs
what is groundhog day


The groundhog is known by many names, including woodchuck, and whistlepig.

The term whistlepig has to do with the groundhog's warning call, which is a shrill whistle. The noise is similar to a squealing pig, so that makes sense.

But "woodchuck" is a bit confusing.

The term woodchuck doesn't have any real meaning or have anything to do with wood, it is simply believed to be a modern interpretation of the Native American word for the animal. 

So, rule number 2: woodchucks and groundhogs are the same animal.

collage of favorite animals

Vote Here for Your Favorite Animal!

groundhog, woodchuck or gopher?

By LeonardoWeiss (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commonsgopher!

Moving on to gophers...

Gophers are not in the squirrel family, they are in an entirely different family of rodents known as Geomyidae, which includes the beaver. There are about 35 species of gopher, all found in Central and North America. Gophers are considerably smaller than groundhogs at only about 2 or 3 pounds.

Unlike groundhogs, who spend lots of their time above ground eating the leaves and fruits of plants, gophers rarely come out of their burrows. They feed on the underground parts of plants, such as the roots and tubers. Gophers also have cheek pouches, like hamsters, that they can store food in and empty for later. 

So, rule number 3: Gophers and groundhogs are different animals.

Wait, we're not done yet!

is a groundhog a groundsquirrel?


The name gopher is also commonly applied to other squirrels like the Richardson ground squirrel. These tan colored squirrels are also smaller than groundhogs, and leaner in body type.

The Richardson ground squirrel is common across much of the Northern U.S., living in burrows on open grasslands. They are similar in appearance and lifestyle to prairie dogs, which are in yet another genus.

They are called gophers on a regular basis, and most people familiar with the animal know exactly what is being referenced, so from a common language standpoint, they are considered gophers, but scientifically, only members of the family Geomyidae are gophers. 

So rule number 4: Ground squirrels and gophers are different animals.

Ultimately, all squirrel-type animals that live in burrows, have buck teeth, and eat seeds while standing up on their haunches are regularly referred to as groundhogs, but only one species of marmot is actually "the" groundhog. - Groundhog Facts

groundhog facts
baby groundhogs
what is groundhog day

  So Much More to Explore...

monkey facts
Tasmanian devil facts
a puppy in the grass
mongoose facts
polar bear facts
killer whale facts
sloth facts
cheetah facts
great apes facts
big cat facts
lion facts
Safari animals
fox facts
koala facts
wombat facts
hyena facts
animal extreme close-ups
reindeer facts
zebra facts
seal facts

What do you think of these fabulous animals? Leave a comment in the box below.

see more animal extreme closeups

Recent Articles

  1. African Animals - Animal Facts Encyclopedia

    Oct 11, 16 10:27 PM

    African Animals facts photos and videos..Africa is a wonderland for animal lovers, and a schoolroom for anyone who wants to learn about nature, beauty and the rhythm of life

    Read More

  2. Baboon Facts - Animal Facts Encyclopedia

    Oct 11, 16 10:26 PM

    Baboon facts, photos, videos and information - Baboons are very distinctive looking monkeys with long, dog-like snouts and close set eyes.

    Read More

  3. Great Apes Facts - Animal Facts Encyclopedia

    Oct 11, 16 10:25 PM

    Great apes facts, photos and videos..Human beings did not evolve from chimpanzees, modern chimps and gorillas do not appear in the fossil records until much more recently than homo sapiens..

    Read More