Different Types Of Sloths – How Many Are There?

When thinking about sloths, are they all the same or are there different types of sloths? Previously, I assumed that a sloth was a sloth was a sloth, but I now know that this is not the case. There are actually six species of sloths, which are divided into two categories: two-toed and three-toed. In the two-toed category, you have Hoffman’s and Linnaeus’s. For three-toed sloths, you have Brown-throated, Maned, Pale-throated, and Pygmy varieties. From a “technical” perspective, all sloths have three toes, but the two-toed ones only have two fingers. Kind of confusing, I know!

In this article, I will talk about some of the differences between two-toed and three-toed sloths, as well as go into a bit more detail about each of the six species of sloths. Hopefully, I will be able to provide you with some useful information about different types of sloths.


A Sloth By Any Other Name…..

Also from a “technical perspective”, the six species of sloths all have more “official scientific/biological sloth names”, which are as follows:

  • “Choloepus hoffmanni” for Hoffman’s sloth
  • “Choloepus didactylus” for Linnaeus’s sloth (see picture shown)

Linnaeus's two-toed sloth

  • “Bradypus variegatus” for Brown-throated sloth
  • “Bradypus torquatus” for Maned sloth
  • “Bradypus tridactylus” for Pale-throated sloth
  • “Bradypus pygmaeus” for Pygmy sloth


Two-Toed Or Three-Toed…..What Are The Differences Between These Sloths?

As discussed in another article, “Evolution Of Sloths – A Bit Of History”, there was, at one time, only one species of sloth, not the distinction that currently exists between two-toed and three-toed ones. Somewhere along their 35 to 40 million year evolutionary journey, sloths evolved into these two groups. Some of the differences between these two categories of sloths are as follows:

  • Two-toed sloths are larger than three-toed ones.
  • Two-toed sloths move more quickly than three-toed ones (they both move extremely slowly, though – slower than every other mammal and almost every other animal on the planet).
  • Two-toed sloths do more from an activity perspective than three-toed ones (being as slow as sloths are, I’m guessing that this extra level of activity is not noticeably significant).
  • Two-toed sloths have five vertebrae in their neck and three-toed ones have nine.
  • Two-toed sloths hang upside-down more of the time than three-toed ones.


Two-Toed Sloths…..With Three Toes

Hoffman’s two-toed sloth and Linnaeus’s two-toed sloth are both found in this category. While they both look a lot alike, Hoffman’s have hands, feet, and snouts that are darker than Linnaeus’s. Also, according to KidZone, “Unlike Linnaeus’s two-toed sloths, however, Hoffman’s two-toed sloths are much, much hairier! Whenever these beautiful animals hang upsidedown, they literally look like they are letting their hair loose!”


Three-Toed Sloths…..Also With Three Toes…..And Always With A Smile On Their Faces!

Brown-throated slothIn this category, there are four species of sloths: Brown-throated, Maned, Pale-throated, and Pygmy. As described by The Sloth Conservation Foundation, “All four species have small round heads with small ears, a characteristic dark mask around the eyes and a permanent, enigmatic smile.” Let’s take a look at each of these sloths in a bit more detail:

  • Brown-throated sloth: this sloth does a great impersonation of an owl, as it is able to turn its head like the bird does. See picture shown of a brown-throated sloth.
  • Maned sloth: this sloth is only found in Brazil and according to KidZone, “The maned sloth is only found on the eastern coast of Brazil and is considered the rarest sloth in the world. This sloth is so rare because it is very picky about where it lives – this type of sloth will only live in hot humid parts of brazil (sic) where there are no dry seasons.”
  • Pale-throated sloth: this sloth lives up to its name, as it has a spot of yellow on its throat, which is pale in colour. The adult pale-throated sloth prefers a solitary existence.
  • Pygmy sloth: this sloth is only found on a little island near Panama in the Caribbean and has only had distinct species identification since 2001.


A Word About Sloths Being Endangered

As I discussed in another article titled “Are Sloths Endangered? The Sad Reality”, all six species of sloths are facing numerous threats, and two of them are in very real danger of becoming extinct. The pygmy three-toed sloth is the sloth facing the greatest threat of extinction. According to The Sloth Conservation Foundation, “…these little sloths are considered to be one of the most critically endangered mammals in the world.”

The maned sloth, although not considered as endangered as the pygmy sloth, is also facing the threat of extinction. According to The Sloth Conservation Foundation, “These elusive creatures now only exist in a tiny strip of Atlantic forest on the coast of Brazil and are currently listed as vulnerable…”

While not listed as critically endangered or vulnerable, the four other sloth species all face threats as well, and I feel that it is very important to protect all sloths (and to look after all endangered, vulnerable, and threatened animals on our planet, too).


Different Types Of Sloths – The Final Tally

So, there you have it. A discussion about different types of sloths. In this article, I explained the different scientific names that sloths go by, I discussed some of the differences between two-toed and three-toed sloths, I went into more detail about each of the six species of sloths in these two categories, and I ended with a brief review of how sloths are either threatened, vulnerable, or critically endangered.

There are certainly many differences between the sloth species, some subtle and some more obvious. But at the end of the day, whether the discussion is about toe-toed, three-toed, Bradypus, Choloepus, Hoffman’s, Linnaeus’s, Brown-throated, Maned, Pale-throated, pygmy……or about anything sloth-related…..one thing is certain – they are all gentle, adorable, wonderful creatures that deserve to be respected and protected. I hope this article provided some useful information for you and I would like to thank you for taking the time to read it. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to submit them below.

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  • We take so many things for granted in this world. Whenever I think about sloths, it’s always with a tinge of amusement. But I never knew how dangerously close they were to extinction, and that’s definitely not funny. It’s great that you’re brining this to people’s attention and teaching us new things about them along the way. Keep it up mate.
    All the best.

    • What a great observation that you have made by us taking so many things for granted. Thanks for reading and for commenting. All the best to you, too. 🙂

  • Our world is a big place, where we see different animals. It’s sad how we people made so many animals endangered, and sloths are one of them.

    • I totally agree with you. Fortunately, there are people and organizations that are working hard to protect sloths (and other animals, as well). This provides hope for the future of all animals.

  • Gosh! Not many type of sloth types and also there are not many left. What is the world doing to preserve these cute species? We take many things for granted in life and animals are one of them. I hope all the animals including the more cute ones such as sloths are well taken care of.

    Thank you for another highly informative post on different types of sloths and the numbers that are left.

    • We do indeed take many things for granted, don’t we? Including animals. Like you, I also hope that all animals are well taken care of. There are some good organizations with good people that are working hard to take care of and protect animals, which makes me happy to see.

      Ultimately, though, it comes down to each one of us. I love this quote from The Sloth Conservation Foundation, which says, “Every single person has the power to save endangered species. The way that each of us shops, eats, and the small choices that we make in our everyday lives all influence the likelihood of many species surviving. Please don’t ever underestimate the collective impact of your daily actions!”

      Thank you for your comments. All the best.

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