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Do Squirrels Have Thumbs? 5 Squirrel Facts You Should Know

To many living creatures such as human beings, the opposable thumbs are very important in their daily activities. However, do squirrels have thumbs? Let’s find out together in this article.

The ability of animals to grip and scramble up a tree is predominantly due to their opposable thumbs. Numerous animals, e.g., gorillas, koalas, opossums, and chimpanzees, have an opposable thumb. Pondering about squirrels, do they have thumbs? Keep reading!

A vast majority of rodents have a partly opposable toe on each forepaw that enhances grasping. If you think about climbing, squirrels are crackerjacks. It’s for this reason that many people wonder if squirrels have thumbs.

Could it be that you are also inquisitive about knowing if squirrels have thumbs? Well, this article will come in handy by outlining squirrels and thumbs. Keep on reading to find out more.

This article has been reviewed by Dr. Linda. Read more about our knowledge control process here.

What is an Opposable Thumb? Do Squirrels Have Thumbs?

Do you know what a thumb is? Please glance at your hand; what do you see? You have five fingers, and one of the five is a thumb.

Even by looking, you can see that your thumb is different from other fingers. It is structurally unique and outstanding among all fingers. 

The thumb is set apart and has a distinctive ability to face and touch all other digits/fingers on the same hand. You can try that with your thumb and see. It is because of this characteristic that it’s called an opposable thumb.

The thumb is the only digit that is opposable, letting it perform a diversity of tasks, including folding our hands around objects, eating with one hand, and forming a fist.

It is also because of the opposable thumb that animals can grasp and climb objects like trees without falling.

Do Squirrels Have Opposable Thumbs?

do squirrels have thumbs
Squirrels don’t have thumbs. What they have are vestigial thumbs

Do squirrels have an opposable thumb? No, they don’t. Squirrels are professional climbers and hold food firmly. Although, interestingly, they are without an opposable thumb.

So, don’t be surprised to figure out that your squirrel friend has no thumb; that’s their nature.

Nonetheless, the squirrel’s forepaw has four digits and five digits on the hind paw. Each digit has a sharp claw that allows squirrels to grip branches and bark when ascending a tree.

So now, you see how squirrels manage to scramble over the trees swiftly and without falling. You will also like how these furballs descend from a tree.

They have rotating ankle joints that swivel their feet 180 degrees, a characteristic uncommon from other rodents. Squirrels climb down a tree head-first by swiveling the hind ankle joints, and the back paw points backward, letting it grip the tree back.

Both the front and hind claws are well-developed and dig perfectly into an object as an anchor point.

Squirrels have Vestigial Thumb; how True is that?

After learning that squirrels lack opposable thumbs, some people are burning with curiosity to know if what we see in squirrels are vestigial thumbs. It is a question that is more often asked.

So now, it is interesting to know that although squirrels lack the opposable thumb, they have a vestigial thumb. Vestigiality is an evident condition among various animal species.

Vestigial refers to something, particularly a part of an organism that was functional in ancient times but has now contracted and is principally obsolete or has limited function.

The vestigial thumb is evident among the tree squirrels. They have four digits on each forepaw, plus a vestigial thumb and five digits on each back paw.

These thumbs are not pointless as they joined up with other digits to help squirrels climb trees quickly.

the paws of baby squirrels

Do Baby Squirrels Have Thumbs?

You are perhaps wondering if baby squirrels have thumbs that shrink as they continue to grow. However, that is not true; baby squirrels do not have opposable thumbs, neither do juvenile and adult squirrels.

At birth, baby squirrels don’t look much like their parents; they’re hairless, blind and with joined fingers and toes. A baby has four fingers on each front limb, and each hind limb has five toes, and they all have black nails.

The opposable thumb is completely absent from both the young and adult squirrels. The baby squirrels have most features of the parents, except that they’re hairless and toothless.

What Do Squirrel Paw Tracks Look Like?

A squirrel's paw tracks in the snow
A squirrel’s paw tracks in the snow

It is not void of knowing the appearance of any animal footprint, including squirrels. Sometimes you might be worried that an animal is sneaking into your home or garden in the absence of people.

Tracing the whereabouts of the animal might sometimes be challenging. At such a point, checking the footprint of this concealed guest is the best alternative. Studying the paw tracks might reveal the animal responsible.

So, what do paw tracks from squirrels look like? A squirrel’s front and back paw prints are slightly distinctive. The front paw leaves a mark with four narrow toes tipped with tiny claws.

On the other hand, the prints from the hind legs feature five digits with a substantial pad at the heel. The prints are relatively small, measuring about two inches in length.

Do Squirrel Nails Grow Back?

Squirrels have strong and sharp claws that expose us to the danger of scratching when we touch or handle them. The nails can slit your beautiful soft skin, and cut into you, and can cause a deep wound on you.

To avoid that, you might think of cutting them but still, get concerned if the nails can grow back. The truth is, squirrel’s nails will always grow back even after being cut.

That’s a go-ahead to trim their nails and enjoy your playing time together with no worry of scratches again. For a squirrel pet owner, trimming your friend’s nail once or twice per week is recommended.

Keeping your adorable pet smart at all times is paramount. It not only makes your friend happy but also yourself.


What animals have opposable thumbs?

Many animal species that have opposable thumbs as we humans are considered or classified as primates. These animals includechimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, and other apes variants. Panlas, possums and opossums, koalas, some species of frogs such as The green colored ‘Phyllomedusa camba’ tree frog, and even birds have opposable digits that can be seen as a thumb.

Do squirrels have opposable thumbs?

No, squirrels do not have opposable thumbs. Instead, they have larger hind legs and smaller fore-paws that end in tiny fingers resembling the human hands. Each paw usually has 4 or 5 toes and most of them have small, poorly developed thumbs.

How many fingers does a squirrel have?

All squirrel species have either 4 or 5 toes (fingers) on each paw. But in some species, the hind limbs are usually longer than the fore limbs.

Do squirrels have five fingers?

Generally, squirrels have 4 digits (fingers) on the fore limbs but 5 on the hind limbs.

Last Thoughts

You don’t know how happy I am that you were patient to read this article to the end. We have covered a lot, but I want you to remember the following points:

  • All squirrels, including baby squirrels, juveniles and adults, do not have opposable thumbs.
  • Squirrels have rotating joints that allow the hind limbs to rotate 180 degrees and face backwards when the squirrel is climbing down trees. The claws grip on the bark for anchorage.
  • Squirrels’ footprints are slightly close to those of rabbits but are a bit smaller. They have four front toes with tipped tiny claws and five back toes with a substantial pad at the heel.
  • Squirrel nails can grow back after being trimmed.
  • Squirrels have a vestigial thumb at the front limbs rather than an opposable thumb.

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