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Kinkajou (Potos flavus) Fact Sheet: Physical Characteristics

Physical Characteristics

  Male Female
Head & Body Length 390-542 mm (1.3-1.8 ft) 364-547 mm (1.2-1.8 ft)
Tail Length 420-570 mm (1.4-1.9 ft) 405-570 mm (1.3-1.9 ft)
Total Length 815-1330 mm (2.7-4.4 ft) 819-1005 mm (2.7-3.3 ft)
Body Weight
1.4-4.6 kg (3.1-10.1 lb)
Body measurements from Ford and Hoffmann 1988; Hernandez-Camacho 1977.

General Appearance

Body shape (from Reid 1997 unless otherwise noted)

  • Body elongate (Figueroa and Arita 2013; Ford and Hoffmann 1988)
    • Muscular (de la Rosa and Nocke 2000)
  • Head
    • Rounded (Figueroa and Arita 2013)
  • Legs short and sturdy
    • Hindlimbs longer than forelimbs (de la Rosa and Nocke 2000)
  • Feet
    • Front paws dexterous (de la Rosa and Nocke 2000)
      • Ankles capable of 180o rotation (de la Rosa and Nocke 2000)
      • Pads bare-skinned; leathery (de la Rosa and Nocke 2000)
    • Fingers (digits)
      • 5 on each foot (Figueroa and Arita 2013)
      • Non-retractile claw on each (de la Rosa and Nocke 2000)
      • Digits of fore-feet nimble (de la Rosa and Nocke 2000)
        • When closed, converge at a single point in the center of the palm (McClearn 1992)
        • Capable of grasping fruit with one hand (Hall and Dalquest 1963)
  • Tail long and tapered
    • As long (or longer) than the head and body length (Hernandez-Camacho 1977)
    • Prehensile (capable of grasping or holding onto objects)
      • One of two carnivores to have such an ability (Glatston 1994)
    • Color similar to that of the body
    • Tip dark brown in most; white in some Panamanian individuals

Facial characteristics (from Reid 1997 unless otherwise noted)

  • Face
    • Round (de la Rosa and Nocke 2000)
  • Muzzle
    • Short and blunt (Figueroa and Arita 2013)
  • Eyes (from Figueroa and Arita 2013; Zeveloff 2002 unless otherwise noted)
    • Large
    • Forward facing (Kays 2009)
    • Reflected light appears to glow bright yellow or green (Ford and Hoffmann 1988)
  • Ears
    • Short and rounded (Ford and Hoffmann 1988)
    • Set on sides of the head
  • Tongue
    • Long and narrow
      • May be 20 cm long, used  to collect nectar and pollen (Wright 2009)
      • Often listed as 12.7 cm (5 inches)
    • Extensible (Ford and Hoffmann 1988)

Adult pelage (from Reid 1997 unless otherwise noted)

  • Hair
    • Short, soft, and dense (Figueroa and Arita 2013; Reid 1997)
    • Wooly; with a slight sheen
  • Coloration
    • Back (dorsum)
      • Golden brown
      • Less commonly pale, gray-brown (typically in dry areas) or dark brown (in humid areas)
        • Geographic variation
        • Northern populations tend to be paler in color than those further south (Ford and Hoffmann 1988)
    • Belly (underparts)
      • Creamy yellow or orangish
    • Tail
      • Colored as the back and belly (Ford and Hoffmann 1988)

Sexual Dimorphism

Dimorphic in size (from Reid 1997)

  • Males larger than females
    • Some degree of overlap in size ranges between the sexes

Other Characteristics


  • Arboreal adaptations (from Ford and Hoffmann 1988 unless otherwise noted)
    • Tail prehensile
      • Capable of grasping objects
      • Provides balance and support (Ford and Hoffmann 1988; Poglayen-Neuwall 1962)
        • Kinkajous can hang from branches using only their tails
        • Grasps and holds branches when moving across gaps between limbs (McClearn 1992)
    • Hindfoot can pivot backwards

Chromosome number

  • 19 chromosome pairs (2n=38) (Ford and Hoffmann 1988)

Similar animals

  • Olingos: Bassaricyon spp
    • Smaller animals; weight 1/2 to 2/3 the size of kinkajous (Zeveloff 2002)
      • Tail not prehensile as are those of the kinkajou (Ford and Hoffmann 1988)
      • Nose more pointed; often with a grayish face
      • Color distinction between hairs on the belly and back more pronounced

Stout Body, Prehensile Tail

a Kinkajou in a tree

The kinkajou's body is elongate and muscular. An equally long prehensile tail, short legs, and dexterous feet give these animals agility while moving through the forest canopy. The tail is often used as a fifth hand to grasp tree limbs and stabalize the body; its grasp is strong enough to hold the body as the animal dangles upside-down.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

Page Citations

de la Rosa and Nocke (2000)
Figuerosa et al. (2013)
Ford and Hoffman (1988)
Glatson (1994)
Hall and Dalquest (1963)
Hernandez-Camacho (1977)
Kays (2009)
McClearn (1992)
Poglayen-Neuwall (1962)
Reid (1997)
Wright (2009)
Zeveloff (2002)

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