Opossum vs Possum – When to Choose Which One and Why?

The marsupial is a type of animal that belongs to possums and opossums. But one common mistake that people do is that they think these animals are the same. Well, they are not. Even if we are clearing these things, you might still be confused first, with the spelling, and then their looks are slightly similar. So today, we will go through the differences they have with the simple definitions of Opossum vs. Possum.

opossum vs possum

How To Avoid The Opossum Vs Possum Error

The difference between opossums and possums can be confusing to many people, but there are some key differences between the two that can help you avoid making the wrong choice when referring to either animal. Opossums are marsupials, meaning they carry their young in a pouch. They are found exclusively in the Americas and range from Central America all the way up to Canada. Possums, on the other hand, are found primarily in Australia and New Guinea. They are marsupials, but they do not have a pouch.

One of the easiest ways to distinguish between an opossum and a possum is to look at the animals’ tails. An opossum has a prehensile tail, meaning it is able to use its tail to grab and hold onto things. A possum’s tail is not prehensile, so it is unable to grip or hold onto things. Another difference between the two is the color of their fur. An opossum typically has gray or white fur, while a possum usually has brown or black fur.

Another way to help avoid the opossum vs possum error is to pay attention to where the animal is found in the wild. Opossums are primarily found in the Americas, while possums are found primarily in Australia and New Guinea.

It is also important to remember that opossums and possums have different diets. Opossums are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and animals. Possums, on the other hand, are herbivores, meaning they eat only plants.

Finally, it is important to remember that opossums and possums have different body sizes. Opossums are much smaller than possums, typically weighing less than five pounds. Possums, on the other hand, can weigh up to 20 pounds.

By paying attention to the differences between opossums and possums, you can easily avoid making the wrong choice when referring to either animal. Remembering that opossums are found exclusively in the Americas, have prehensile tails, and are usually gray or white in color can help you make the right choice. Similarly, remembering that possums are found primarily in Australia and New Guinea, do not have prehensile tails, and are usually brown or black in color can help you avoid the opossum vs possum error.

Opossum vs. Possum: Difference

An opossum is a type of marsupial but a native animal of America from Didelphimorphia. While Possum is a marsupial animal, native to Australasia. Possums have the scientific name of Phalangeriformes. However, possums are more often used these days. People interchangeably use these words just like bison and buffalo. To briefly define opossum vs. Possum:

  • Opossums- commonly identified with their white faces and sharp teeth. These are native marsupial animals in America.
  • Possums- have prehensile tails and are native marsupial animals to Australia and their neighbor countries.

When to Use Opossum

Most of the time, you can use opossum or opossums when you are referring to the Virginia opossum. These are the only species you can find in Canada and the USA.

Opossums are fierce creatures due to their sharp teeth, which is the main characteristic of Virginia opossum. Virginia opossums usually have white faces, black ears, and coarse gray. Somehow the same size with a domestic cat. Opossums don’t have prehensile tails like possums of Australia. However, they are comfortable on the ground and in the trees.

When to Use Possum

Possum is a Phalangeriformes. A kind of marsupial that can be found in Australia and other Oceanic countries. They are tree-dwelling animals and are nocturnal creatures. Possums have prehensile tails, but they also have varieties of possums that have brushtail and ringtail possums. Their tails act like their fifth limb. Through their tail characteristics, they can use it to grasp and hang from the branches of trees.

Spelling Mistakes with Opossum & Possum

In English, there are lots of words that begin with “opp.” Which writer became confused with the correct spelling of opossum. These errors might be:

  • Oppossum
  • Opposum
  • Oposum
  • Opussum

These mistakes are common and take away the meaning of the word. The correct spelling is O-P-O-S-S-U-M, opossum. And do not be confused when to call that marsupial animal opossum, and an Australian tree-dwelling animal, Possum.


When to use Possum vs Opossum?

Most of the time, you can use opossum or opossums when you are referring to the Virginia opossum. And an Australian tree-dwelling animal is called Possum.

Is Opossum a Rodent?

Opossum are not Rodent. They are marsupial. They use their pouch to carry their babies. They are the only mammals with pouches in the US & Canada.

Does Possum attack?

Just like other mammals, if you try to hurt a Possum or their babies, they will attack you for rescuing themselves.

Do Possum run fast?

Possums run at the speed of 3.5 miles/hour. They do not posses any skill to attack, but they have the skill to run away quickly from the attackers. Possums are good climbers and swimmers. They can climb fences and concrete walls.


Remember that an opossum is a marsupial that is endemic to America and belongs to the Didelphimorphia family. Possums are marsupial animals that are native to Australasia.

Even the names of animals are confusing. But properly knowing their characteristics will help you define which name you will call them. Opossum vs Possum is no doubt almost similar to each as well as their spelling.

While possums and opossums both fall under the general class of marsupial, they belong to different orders and there are variation possum and other widespread possum species like the Australasian marsupials, Tasmanian pygmy possum, Brushtail possums and Australian Possums. Opossums live in North and South America, while possums live in Australia and other countries.

The possum has a furry tail, while the opossum has a bare tail. Both possums and opossums have a flexible diet and they eat various green plants and animal matter scavenged from their surroundings. In North America, the animal is officially called an opossum is a white and gray marsupial of the order Didelphimorphia. 

Are there other terms, words, or phrases that confuse you about when to use or if properly used? Hope this article helped clear key difference in possum-opossum difference. Share us what are those, and maybe we can help you find the answers to differentiate them!

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