|Clockwise: American badger, European badger, Honey badger and Chinese ferret-badger|
|Mustelid badger ranges |
Honey badger (Mellivora capensis)
American badger (Taxidea taxus)
European badger (Meles meles)
Asian badger (Meles leucurus)
Japanese badger (Meles anakuma)
Chinese ferret-badger (Melogale moschata)
Burmese ferret-badger (Melogale personata)
Javan ferret-badger (Melogale orientalis)
Bornean ferret-badger (Melogale everetti)
Badgers are short-legged omnivores mostly in the family Mustelidae (which also includes the otters, polecats, weasels, and ferrets), but also with two species called "badgers" in the related family Mephitidae (which also includes the skunks). Badgers are a polyphyletic grouping, and are not a natural taxonomic grouping: badgers are united by their squat bodies, adapted for fossorial activity. All belong to the caniform suborder of carnivoran mammals.
The eleven species of mustelid badgers are grouped in four subfamilies: Melinae (four species, including the European badger), Helictidinae (five species of ferret-badger), Mellivorinae (the honey badger or ratel), and Taxideinae (the American badger); the respective genera are Arctonyx , Meles , Melogale , Mellivora and Taxidea . Badgers include the most basal mustelids; the American badger is the most basal of all, followed successively by the ratel and the Melinae; the estimated split dates are about 17.8, 15.5 and 14.8 million years ago, respectively. The two species of Asiatic stink badgers of the genus Mydaus were formerly included within Melinae (and thus Mustelidae), but more recent genetic evidence indicates these are actually members of the skunk family (Mephitidae).
Badger mandibular condyles connect to long cavities in their skulls, which gives resistance to jaw dislocation and increases their bite grip strength.This in turn limits jaw movement to hinging open and shut, or sliding from side to side, but it does not hamper the twisting movement possible for the jaws of most mammals.
Badgers have rather short, wide bodies, with short legs for digging. They have elongated, weasel-like heads with small ears. Their tails vary in length depending on species; the stink badger has a very short tail, while the ferret-badger's tail can be 46–51 cm (18–20 in) long, depending on age. They have black faces with distinctive white markings, grey bodies with a light-coloured stripe from head to tail, and dark legs with light-coloured underbellies. They grow to around 90 cm (35 in) in length including tail.
The European badger is one of the largest; the American badger, the hog badger, and the honey badger are generally a little smaller and lighter. Stink badgers are smaller still, and ferret-badgers smallest of all. They weigh around 9–11 kg (20–24 lb), while some Eurasian badgers weigh around 18 kg (40 lb).
The word "badger", originally applied to the European badger (Meles meles), comes from earlier bageard (16th century),presumably referring to the white mark borne like a badge on its forehead. Similarly, a now archaic synonym was bauson 'badger' (1375), a variant of bausond 'striped, piebald', from Old French bausant, baucent 'id.'.
The less common name brock (Old English: brocc), (Scots: brock) is a Celtic loanword (cf. Gaelic broc and Welsh broch, from Proto-Celtic *brokkos) meaning "grey".The Proto-Germanic term was *þahsuz (cf. German Dachs, Dutch das, Norwegian svintoks; Early Modern English dasse), probably from the PIE root *tek'- "to construct," so the badger would have been named after its digging of setts (tunnels); the Germanic term *þahsuz became taxus or taxō, -ōnis in Latin glosses, replacing mēlēs ("marten" or "badger"), and from these words the common Romance terms for the animal evolved (Italian tasso, French taisson—blaireau is now more common—Catalan toixó, Spanish tejón, Portuguese texugo).
A male European badger is a boar, a female is a sow, and a young badger is a cub. However, in North America the young are usually called kits, while the terms male and female are generally used for adults. A collective name suggested for a group of colonial badgers is a cete,but badger colonies are more often called clans. A badger's home is called a sett.
The following list shows where the various species with the common name of badger are placed in the Mustelidae and Mephitidae classifications. The list is polyphyletic and the species commonly called badgers do not form a valid clade.
Badgers are found in much of North America, Great Britain,Ireland and most of the rest of Europe as far north as southern Scandinavia. They live as far east as Japan and China. The Javan ferret-badger lives in Indonesia, and the Bornean ferret-badger lives in Malaysia. The honey badger is found in most of sub-Saharan Africa, the Arabian Desert, southern Levant, Turkmenistan, Pakistan and India.
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The behaviour of badgers differs by family, but all shelter underground, living in burrows called setts, which may be very extensive. Some are solitary, moving from home to home, while others are known to form clans called cetes. Cete size is variable from two to 15.
Badgers can run or gallop at 25–30 km/h (16–19 mph) for short periods of time. They are nocturnal.
In North America, coyotes sometimes eat badgers and vice versa, but the majority of their interactions seem to be mutual or neutral.American badgers and coyotes have been seen hunting together in a cooperative fashion.
The diet of the Eurasian badger consists largely of earthworms (especially Lumbricus terrestris ),insects, grubs, and the eggs and young of ground-nesting birds. They also eat small mammals, amphibians, reptiles and birds, as well as roots and fruit. In Britain, they are the main predator of hedgehogs, which have demonstrably lower populations in areas where badgers are numerous, so much so that hedgehog rescue societies do not release hedgehogs into known badger territories. They are occasional predators of domestic chickens, and are able to break into enclosures that a fox cannot. In southern Spain, badgers feed to a significant degree on rabbits.
American badgers are fossorial carnivores – i.e. they catch a significant proportion of their food underground, by digging. They can tunnel after ground-dwelling rodents at speed.
The honey badger of Africa consumes honey, porcupines, and even venomous snakes (such as the puff adder); they climb trees to gain access to honey from bees' nests.
Badgers have been known to become intoxicated with alcohol after eating rotting fruit.
Hunting badgers for sport has been common in many countries. The Dachshund (German for "badger hound") dog breed was bred for this purpose. Badger-baiting was formerly a popular blood sport.Although badgers are normally quite docile, they fight fiercely when cornered. This led people to capture and box badgers and then wager on whether a dog could succeed in removing the badger from its refuge. In England, opposition from naturalists led to its ban under the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1835 and the Protection of Badgers Act of 1992 made it an offence to kill, injure, or take a badger or to interfere with a sett unless under license from a statutory authority. The Hunting Act of 2004 further banned fox hunters from blocking setts during their chases.
Badgers have been trapped commercially for their pelts, which have been used for centuries to make shaving brushes,a purpose to which it is particularly suited owing to its high water retention. Virtually all commercially available badger hair now comes from mainland China, though, which has farms for the purpose. The Chinese supply three grades of hair to domestic and foreign brush makers. Village cooperatives are also licensed by the national government to hunt and process badgers to avoid their becoming a crop nuisance in rural northern China. The European badger is also used as trim for some traditional Scottish clothing. The American badger is also used for paintbrushes and as trim for some Native American garments.
Controlling the badger population is prohibited in many European countries since badgers are listed in the Berne Convention, but they are not otherwise the subject of any international treaty or legislation. Many badgers in Europe were gassed during the 1960s and 1970s to control rabies.
Until the 1980s, badger culling in the United Kingdom was undertaken in the form of gassing, allegedly to control the spread of bovine tuberculosis (bTB). Limited culling resumed in 1998 as part of a 10-year randomised trial cull, which was considered by John Krebs and others to show that culling was ineffective. Some groups called for a selective cull,whilst others favoured a programme of vaccination. Wales and Northern Ireland are currently (2013) conducting field trials of a badger vaccination programme. In 2012 the government authorised a limited cull led by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. However it was later deferred and a wide range of reasons given. In August 2013 a full culling programme began, whereby it was expected that about 5,000 badgers would be killed over six weeks in West Somerset and Gloucestershire using a mixture of controlled shooting and free shooting (some badgers were to be trapped in cages first). The cull caused many protests, with emotional, economic and scientific reasons being cited. The badger is considered an iconic species of the British countryside and it has been claimed by shadow ministers that "The government's own figures show it will cost more than it saves...", and Lord Krebs, who led the Randomised Badger Culling Trial in the 1990s, said the two pilots "will not yield any useful information".
Although rarely eaten today in the United States or the United Kingdom, [ when? ]badgers were once a primary meat source for the diets of Native Americans and European colonists. Badgers were also eaten in Britain during World War II and the 1950s. In some areas of Russia, the consumption of badger meat is still widespread. Shish kebabs made from badger, along with dog meat and pork, are a major source of trichinosis outbreaks in the Altai Region of Russia. In Croatia badger meat is rarely eaten, but when it is, it is usually smoked, dried, or served in goulash. In France, badger meat was used in the preparation of several dishes, such as Blaireau au sang, and it was a relatively common ingredient in countryside cuisine. Badger meat was eaten in some parts of Spain until recently.
Badgers are sometimes kept as pets.Keeping a badger as a pet or offering one for sale is an offence in the United Kingdom under the 1992 Protection of Badgers Act.
In Europe during the medieval period, accounts of badgers in bestiaries described badgers as working together to dig holes under mountains. They were said to lie down at the entrance of the hole holding a stick in their mouths, while other badgers piled dirt on their bellies. Two badgers would then take hold of the stick in the badger's mouth, and drag the animal loaded with dirt away, almost in the fashion of a wagon.The moralizing component of Bestiaries often took precedence over their function as natural history texts, and this description of badgers most likely reflects an allegorical exemplar rather than what everyday people in the Middle Ages might or might not have believed about how badgers behave in the wild.
The 19th-century poem "The Badger" by John Clare describes a badger hunt and badger-baiting. The character Frances in Russell Hoban's children's books, beginning with Bedtime for Frances (1948–1970), is depicted as a badger. Trufflehunter is a heroic badger in the Chronicles of Narnia book Prince Caspian (1951) by C. S. Lewis.
Badger characters are featured in author Brian Jacques' Redwall series (1986–2011), they are depicted as feared warriors most often falling under the title of Badger Lord or Badger Mother. A badger character is featured in The Immortals (1992–1996) by Tamora Pierce and "The Badger" is a comic book hero created by Mike Baron. The badger is the emblem of the Hufflepuff house of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter book series (1997–2007), it is chosen as such because the badger is an animal that is often underestimated, because it lives quietly until attacked, but which, when provoked, can fight off animals much larger than itself, which resembles the Hufflepuff house in several ways.
Many other stories featuring badgers as characters include Kenneth Grahame's children's novel The Wind in the Willows (1908), Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Mr. Tod (1912; featuring badger Tommy Brock), the Rupert Bear adventures by Mary Tourtel (appearing since 1920), T. H. White's Arthurian fantasy novels The Once and Future King (1958, written 1938–41) and The Book of Merlyn (1977), Fantastic Mr. Fox (1970) by Roald Dahl, Richard Adams's Watership Down (1972), Colin Dann's The Animals of Farthing Wood (1979), and Erin Hunter's Warriors (appearing since 2003). In the historic novel Incident at Hawk's Hill (1971) by Allan W. Eckert a badger is one of the main characters.
Badgers are also featured in films and animations: a flash video called Badgers shows a cete doing calisthenics. The 1973 Disney animated film Robin Hood depicts the character of Friar Tuck as a badger. In the Doctor Snuggles series, Dennis the handyman was a badger.
In Europe, badgers were traditionally used to predict the length of winter.
The badger is the state animal of the U.S. state of Wisconsinand Bucky Badger is the mascot of the athletic teams at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The badger is also the official mascot of Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada; The University of Sussex, England; and St Aidan's College at the University of Durham.
In 2007, the appearance of honey badgers around the British base at Basra, Iraq, fueled rumours among the locals that British forces deliberately released "man-eating" and "bear-like" badgers to spread panic. These allegations were denied by the British army and the director of Basra's veterinary hospital.
On 28 August 2013, the PC video game Shelter was released by developers Might and Delight in which players control a mother badger protecting her cubs.
As a sub-series of the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, Sticks the Badger is one of the main characters of the Sonic Boom series.
The Mustelidae are a family of carnivorous mammals, including weasels, badgers, otters, ferrets, martens, minks and wolverines, among others. Mustelids are a diverse group and form the largest family in the order Carnivora, suborder Caniformia. They comprise about 56–60 species across eight subfamilies.
A hedgehog is a spiny mammal of the subfamily Erinaceinae, in the eulipotyphlan family Erinaceidae. There are seventeen species of hedgehog in five genera found throughout parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa, and in New Zealand by introduction. There are no hedgehogs native to Australia and no living species native to the Americas.
Mephitidae is a family of mammals comprising the skunks and stink badgers. They are noted for the great development of their anal scent glands, which they use to deter predators. Skunks were formerly classified as a subfamily of the Mustelidae ; however, recent genetic evidence has caused skunks to be treated as a separate family. Similarly, the stink badgers had been classified with badgers, but genetic evidence shows they share a more recent common ancestor with skunks, so they are now included in the skunk family. A 2017 study using retroposon markers indicated that they are most closely related to the Ailuridae and Procyonidae.
The honey badger, also known as the ratel, is a mammal widely distributed in Africa, Southwest Asia, and the Indian subcontinent. Because of its wide range and occurrence in a variety of habitats, it is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.
The European badger is a badger species in the family Mustelidae native to almost all of Europe. It is classified as least concern on the IUCN Red List as it has a wide range and a large stable population size, and is thought to be increasing in some regions. Several subspecies are recognized with the nominate subspecies predominating in most of Europe. In Europe, where no other badger species commonly occurs, it is generally just called the "badger".
Meles is a genus of badgers containing four living species, the Japanese badger, Asian badger, Caucasian badger and European badger. In an older categorization, they were seen as a single species with three subspecies. There are also several extinct members of the genus. They are members of the subfamily Melinae of the weasel family, Mustelidae.
The American badger is a North American badger similar in appearance to the European badger, although not closely related. It is found in the western, central, and eastern United States, northern Mexico, and south-central Canada to certain areas of southwestern British Columbia.
The greater hog badger is a very large terrestrial mustelid native to Southeast Asia. It is listed as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species because the global population is thought to be declining due to high levels of poaching.
The Bornean ferret badger, also known as Everett's ferret badger or the Kinabalu ferret badger, is a small, nocturnal and omnivorous mammal that is endemic to the island of Borneo. It is a member of the family Mustelidae and is one of five species of the genus Melogale. It is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species due to its small distribution range, which includes Kinabalu National Park and Crocker Range National Park.
The Chinese ferret-badger, also known as the small-toothed ferret-badger is a member of the Mustelidae, and widely distributed in Southeast Asia. It is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List and considered tolerant of modified habitat.
Ferret-badgers are the six species of the genus Melogale, which is the only genus of the monotypic mustelid subfamily Helictidinae.
The Javan ferret-badger is a mustelid endemic to Java and Bali, Indonesia. It is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List and occurs from at least 260 to 2,230 m elevation in or close to forested areas.
Stink badgers (Mydaus) also known as false badgers to distinguish from the badgers of the Family Mustelidae, are a genus of the skunk family of carnivorans, the Mephitidae. They resemble the better-known members of the family Mustelidae also termed 'badgers'. There are only two extant species – the Palawan stink badger or pantot, and the Sunda stink badger or teledu. They live only on the western islands of the Greater Sunda Islands: Sumatra, Java, Borneo in Indonesia and on the Philippine island of Palawan; as well as many other smaller islands in the region.
The Japanese badger is a species of carnivoran of the family Mustelidae, the weasels and their kin. Endemic to Japan, it is found on Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku, and Shōdoshima. It shares the genus Meles with its close relatives, the European and Asian badgers. In Japan it is called by the name anaguma (穴熊) meaning "hole-bear", or mujina.
The Vietnam ferret-badger(Melogale cucphuongensis) is a member of the family Mustelidae native to Vietnam. It was described in 2011 and is known from only two specimens.
Hog badgers are three species of mustelid in the genus Arctonyx. They represent one of the two genera in the subfamily Melinae, alongside the true badgers.
The northern hog badger is a species of mustelid native to South and East Asia.
The Formosan ferret-badger is a mustelid species endemic to Taiwan.
Badger predation of hedgehogs was high in the study site and the main cause of death
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