Head and body length ranges from 535 to 880mm and tail length from 400 to 590mm. The individual and geographic variation observed in the southern tamandua has made the taxonomic description of these animals a difficult task. Animals from the southeastern part of the range are "strongly vested," meaning that they have black markings from shoulder to rump; the black patch widens near the shoulders and encircles the forelimbs. The rest of the body can be blonde, tan, or brown. Animals from northern Brazil and Venezuela to west of the Andes are solid blonde, brown, or black, or are only lightly vested. Tamanduas have four clawed digits on the forefeet and five on the hindfeet. To avoid puncturing their palms with their sharp claws, they walk on the outsides of their hands. The underside and the end of the prehensile tail are hairless. The snout is long and decurved with an opening only as wide as the diameter of a pencil, from which the tongue is protruded.
Average mass: 4500 g.
Average basal metabolic rate: 5.015 W.