Gophers are heavily built, and most are moderately large, weighing a few hundred grams. A few species reach weights approaching 1 kg. Most gophers have brown fur which often closely matches the color of the soil in which they live. Their most characteristic feature is their large cheek pouches, from which the word "pocket" in their name derives. These pouches are fur-lined, and can be turned inside out. They extend from the side of the mouth well back onto the shoulders.
All Pocket Gophers are burrowers. They are larder hoarders, and the cheek pouches are used for transporting food back to their burrows. Gophers can collect large hoards, and for this reason some species are considered an agricultural pest. Gophers also sometimes damage trees in forests.
The following genera are recognised:
Some sources also list a genus Hypogeomys, with one species, but this genus name is normally used for the Malagasy Giant Rat, which belongs to the family Muridae.
- Cratogeomys (Mexican and Yellow-faced Pocket Gophers); some authors treat this genus as a subgenus of Pappogeomys
- Geomys (Eastern Pocket Gophers), principally found in the the south-western United States, east of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
- Orthogeomys (Giant Pocket Gophers or Taltuzas), found in Mexico and Central America
- Pappogeomys, found in Mexico
- Thomomys (Western Pocket Gophers), widely distributed in North America, extending into the northwestern US, Canada and the southeastern US.
There has been much debate among taxonomist about which races of pocket gopher should be recognised as full species, and the following list cannot be regarded as definitive.
- Cratogeomys castanops, the Yellow-faced Pocket Gopher
- C. fumosus Smoky Pocket Gopher
- C. gymnurus Llano Pocket Gopher
- C. merriami Merriam´s Pocket Gopher
- C. neglectus Querétaro Pocket Gopher
- C. tylorhinus Naked-nosed Pocket Gopher
- C. zinseri Zinser´s Pocket Gopher
- Geomys arenarius, two subspecies, the Desert and White Sands Pocket Gophers
- G. attwateri, Attwater's Pocket Gopher
- G. bursarius, the Plains Pocket Gopher (two subspecies)
- G. knoxjonesi, Jones' Pocket Gopher
- G. personatus, 5 subspecies including the Texas, Davis, Maritime and Carrizo Springs Pocket Gophers
- G. pinetis, 4 subspecies, the Southeastern, Cumberland Island, Sherman's and Goff's Pocket Gophers
- G. texensis, 2 subspecies, including the LLano Pocket Gopher.
- Orthogeomys cavator, Chiriqui Pocket Gopher
- O. cherriei Cherrie´s Pocket Gopher
- O. cuniculus Oaxacan Pocket Gopher
- O. dariensis Darien Pocket Gopher
- O. grandis Giant Pocket Gopher
- O. heterodus Variable Pocket Gopher
- O. hispidus Hispid Pocket Gopher
- O. lanius Big Pocket Gopher
- O. matagalpae Nicaraguan Pocket Gopher
- O. thaeleri Thaeler´s Pocket Gopher
- O. underwoodi Underwood´s Pocket Gopher
- Pappogeomys alcorni Alcorn´s Pocket Gopher
- P. bulleri Buller´s Pocket Gopher
- Thomomys bottae, many subspecies, including the Botta's, Fish Spring, Bonneville, Clear Lake, San Antonio, Pistol River, Mount Ellen, Guadalupe, Limpia, Mearns', Stansbury Island, Antelope Island , Cebolleta, Salinas, Skull Valley, Swasey Springs, Harquahala and Limpia Greek Pocket Gophers.
- T. bulbivorus, Camas Pocket Gopher
- T. clusius, the Wyoming Pocket Gopher
- T. idahoensis, the Idaho Pocket Gopher
- T. mazama, several subspecies including the Western, Gold Beach, Olympic, Tacoma Pocket Gophers.
- T. monticola, Mountain Pocket Gopher
- T. talpoides, Northern Pocket Gopher (very widely distributed); several subspecies including the Cheyenne Northern Pocket Gopher
- T. townsendii, Townsend´s Pocket Gopher
- T. umbrinus, Southern Pocket Gopher
- Zygogeomys trichopus, Michoacan Pocket Gopher or Tuza