Sloth Vs Koala: Side By Side

Have you ever wondered if sloths and koalas are related? After all, they both live in trees and live lazy lifestyles. But despite their similarities, these two types of animals are quite different from each other. In this article, we’ll compare the sloth vs the koala and talk about some of their similarities and differences.

What is the Difference Between a Sloth and a Koala?

what is the difference between a koala and a sloth

To a casual observer, sloths and koalas may seem like the same kind of animal–or at least members of the same scientific family. But sloths and koalas actually are not closely related, and they have many differences.

To better understand differences between these two slow-moving tree dwellers, you first need to understand what each animal is. We’ll discuss that below.

What is a Sloth?

Sloths are medium-sized placental mammals that live in trees. They are found in many of the rainforests of Central and South America. 

Sloths are about two feet long with round, sleepy faces, long limbs, and hooked claws that help them climb and hang from trees. They have brownish fur that helps them to blend in with their surroundings.

Sloths are known for their tendency to move very slowly. They spend most of their time hanging from trees, where they eat leaves and can sleep for as much as 20 hours a day.

What is a Koala?

Koalas are medium-sized marsupials that live in eucalyptus trees. They are found in the coastal forests of eastern and southern Australia.

Koalas are two to three feet long and look like soft, cuddly gray teddy bears. They are gray with rounded faces and ears, rounded backsides, and stubby arms and legs made for climbing.

They spend most of their lives eating and sleeping; like sloths, they sometimes sleep up to 20 hours a day. Much of their energy goes to digesting their food, as eucalyptus leaves break down very slowly. 

Sloth Vs. Koala: Major Differences

Sloths and koalas may seem similar on the surface, but they have some definite differences. Let’s take a look at some of those differences.

  • Native continent: Sloths are found only in Central and South America, while koalas are found only in Australia.
  • Type of mammal: Koalas are marsupials, which are mammals that raise their young in pouches. Sloths are placental mammals, so they give birth to their young and raise them without the use of pouches.
  • Scientific name: Sloths are scientifically categorized in the suborder Folivora, and they belong to several separate but closely related families. The koala, on the other hand, is all by itself in the Phascolarctos genus, which is part of the Diprotodontia order.
  • Perch style: Sloths tend to hang from tree branches upside-down, while koalas usually sit perched in the crooks of tree branches.
  • Speed: Though neither animal is fast, koalas are able to move more quickly than sloths by climbing along tree branches; they can even run along the ground if necessary. Sloths move more but are slower than koalas.

How are Sloths and Koalas Similar?

how are sloths and koalas similar

Of course, as you may have noticed from the first section of this article, sloths and koalas have some similarities as well. Let’s take a closer look at these similarities:

  • Both live in trees: Though they live in different parts of the world, both sloths and koalas make their homes in the trees of their native forests.
  • Both eat leaves: Sloths and koalas are both herbivores. Sloths prefer the leaves of cecropia trees, and sloths live entirely on the leaves of eucalyptus trees.
  • Both sleep a lot: Both sloths and koalas have been known to sleep up to 20 hours a day. Koalas do this with more regularity than sloths, as most sloths only sleep 8 to 10 hours a day.
  • Both are solitary creatures: Both sloths and koalas prefer to live alone when they are not raising their young.

Sloth or Koala: Which One is the Laziest?

Because sloths and koalas are both slow and tend to sleep a lot, people often think that they’re lazy animals. But neither sloths nor koalas are actually lazy–both animals have good reasons for their sluggish behaviors.

Sloths are slow-moving for two reasons: to conserve energy and to avoid being spotted by rainforest predators, many of which rely on motion to find their prey. Sloths have poor metabolisms and low muscle mass, so they are simply not capable of moving fast.

Though they may sleep up to 20 hours a day, they generally sleep much less than that–sometimes only 8 to 10 hours, according to this article from The Conversation. When they are awake, they stay on the move, but they cannot move very fast.

Koalas also have poor metabolisms and may also sleep up to 20 hours a day, and the primary reason they sleep so much is to conserve energy. They also must get plenty of rest so they are able to digest their food.

Eucalyptus leaves are toxic to most animals and difficult to digest even for koalas. It takes a lot of energy to digest them, and the leaves provide little nutrition in return; as a result, koalas need plenty of rest.

Koalas generally sleep more than sloths do, so they may be viewed as the lazier animal between the two of them. But again, they have good reasons for this–they do not spend so much time sleeping just because they are lazy.

To learn more about why sloths and koalas are considered lazy, and how they compare against each other, check out the following video:

Do Sloths Eat Koalas?

Sloths are primarily herbivores; this means that the majority of their diet is made up of plant foods such as leaves, twigs, and fruit. Even those that eat animal foods stick to small things like bird eggs, lizards, and insects. 

Sloths would not eat koalas even if they had the opportunity, as koalas are roughly the same size as them (sometimes bigger).

What’s more, sloths and koalas don’t live in the same parts of the world, so the chances that they would come across each other in the wild are basically non-existent.


Sloths and koalas may look and act similar, but they are not closely related. They are two very different types of mammals found in different parts of the world and belonging to different scientific families.

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