With the exception of the underside, they are covered in extremely hard scales. When threatened, they usually they will roll up into a ball to protect the vulnerable belly. The scales on the tail can also be used as blades to slash at attackers.
Temminck's pangolin can grow to a length of about 1 metre, with the tail typically between 30 and 50 cm. They have disproportionately small heads, powerful hindlegs, and small forelegs.
Like other pangolin species, they are largely nocturnal, although they are also entirely terrestrial and usually found in savanna or open woodland, generally feeding on termites or ants. They are well adapted to this, with a very long (up to 50cm) sticky tongue which is stored inside a pocket in the mouth until needed. Although they are capable of digging their own burrows, they prefer to occupy disused holes dug by warthogs or aardvarks or to lie in dense vegetation, making them even more difficult to observe.