Any one of several varieties of rodents, the most common being the woodchuck, Marmota Monax. I find the mountainous varieties more interesting. They live in burrows, and tend to live in colonies. Most are about a foot to two feet long, with brown or yellowish fur. Several varieties in the US include the Hoary Marmot, Marmota Caligata and the Yellow-Bellied Marmot, Marmota Flaviventris. I've often seen these while hiking in the Cascade Range, near Holden Village

There is a great scene in The Big Lebowski. The Dude is tokin' up in his bubble bath, idiot grin on his face. A squad of nihilists bursts through the door of the apartment and into the bathroom. They are pissed, which is quite un-nihilistic of them. They are looking for their money, and have what appears to be a ferret in tow. "Nice marmot." says The Dude, drug-addled. In one smooth motion, the head nihilist releases the rodent from its collar and into The Dude's watery retreat. It's as if a switch has been thrown. The director must have given both the actor and the animal the same instructions, because they both begin to scream and snarl and scratch and thrash as if possessed. What a buzz-kill!

This set-piece scene had me rolling on the floor.

The European marmot (marmotta in Italian) is an animal that gives great satisfaction when hiking in the Alps. They can stand on their two hind legs for extended amounts of time, and they normally do that on a convenient boulder close to the entrance of their burrow. Normally they stand stone still, and their light brown/dark brown coat makes them blend in perfectly well with the environment.

So you don't really see them. But boy, can you hear them! The marmot's standard response to a menace (and that means you, buddy) is to whistle very loudly. Actually loud enough to startle the wits out of you.

There is a bit of a chain reaction effect, since they like to spread the news in the colony. If you get even closer, every marmot will retreat into its burrow. Now, if you lay down and remain absolutely still (and downwind, I should add), after five minutes they will come out again. And they will spot you again, and repeat the whistle-hide cycle.

The marmot can run probably faster than you can, but its chief weapon is that it looks so irresistibly funny when it is running that you are too busy laughing to pursue it. Picture a sausage with very short stubby legs running ...

Mar"mot (?), n. [It. marmotta, marmotto, prob. fr. L. mus montanus, or mus montis, lit., mountain mouse or rat. See Mountain, and Mouse.]

1. Zool.

Any rodent of the genus Arctomys. The common European marmot (A. marmotta) is about the size of a rabbit, and inhabits the higher regions of the Alps and Pyrenees. The bobac is another European species. The common American species (A. monax) is the woodchuck.

<-- related to the woodchuck, (groundhog) but usually used only for the western variety -->


Any one of several species of ground squirrels or gophers of the genus Spermophilus; also, the prairie dog.

Marmot squirrel Zool., a ground squirrel or spermophile. -- Prairie marmot. See Prairie dog.


© Webster 1913.

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