Big-headed mole-rats are highly distinctive in their large size, especially that of their heads. They are a mottled golden-brown in color, and are soft-furred. These mole-rats have small claws and short, powerful legs. Their tails are long and usually covered in fur. Males in this species are noticeably larger than females.
Big-headed mole-rats are found in East Africa. They are endemic to Ethiopia's Bale Mountains. These animals inhabit subtropical or tropical high-altitude grassland.
Big-headed mole-rats are solitary fossorial animals. They are very territorial. They construct underground burrows that consist of the nest which is lined with grasses, food stores, and latrines. While the other mole-rats not only live but also feed underground, Big-headed mole-rats mostly forage above ground, by digging a new tunnel to a patch of herbage. They forage for about 20 minutes until they have exhausted the supply of herbs about their tunnel. After that, they block the tunnel they have built from the inside. These mole-rats are active during the days and don't hibernate. They are adapted for digging tunnels because of the constant threat of predators, especially the Ethiopian wolf, which is specialised to a diet of mole-rats. Ethiopian wolves catch mole-rats by ambushing them after they have constructed a new foraging tunnel, chasing them into their tunnel, and then waiting for them to resurface. Thus mole-rats have evolved different defenses, other than fight, although, they are very cautious and have incisors large enough to severely injure potential predators.
Little is known about the mating system in Big-headed mole-rats. However, they are suggested to be polygynous as males and females meet only for mating. These animals breed year round, with the peak during the wet season. Females give birth to 1-4 young per litter, although 1-2 young are most common. The gestation period lasts 37-49 days. Females nurse their offspring for around 50 days. They stay with their mother for another month, even though they can eat solid food. Young Big-headed mole-rats become reproductively mature when they are 4-6 months old.
Big-headed mole-rats are threatened by habitat loss through overgrazing of their habitat by domestic livestock.
The IUCN Red List and other sources do not provide the Big-headed mole-rat total population size. This animal is common only within its restricted range. Currently, this species is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are decreasing.
Big-headed mole-rats aerate and turn the soil in their environment due to their extensive tunneling work. These animals are also important consumers of different plant species, and they are the main prey for the endangered Ethiopian wolf in the areas where these two species overlap.