The tailless tenrec is the largest land-dwelling species of the tenrec family, Tenrecidae. It is 26 to 39 cm (10 to 15½ in) in length and weighs 1.5 to 2.5 kg (3¼ to 5½ lb). It has medium-sized, coarse grey to reddish-grey fur and long, sharp spines along its body. It not only eats small invertebrates among leaves, but also scavenges and hunts frogs and mice. If threatened, this tenrec will scream, erect its spiny hairs to a crest, jump, buck and bite. It shelters in a nest of grass and leaves under a rock, log or bush by day. It gives birth to a litter of as many as 32 young, with an average litter between 15-20 after a gestation of 50–60 days; when young, they have a black-and-white striped appearance. Despite being sometimes known as the tailless tenrec, they have a small tail 1 to 1.5 cm (⅜ to ½ in) in length.
The tenrec is the first known tropical mammal found to hibernate for long stretches without arousal periods. Because it can hibernate for up to nine months at a time these early mammals may have survived the cataclysm that killed off dinosaurs.