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European badger
Scientific classification

  Mydaus (Family Mephitidae)   Taxidea


Badger species map.png
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 in the families Mustelidae (which also includes the otters, polecats, weasels, and ferrets), and Mephitidae (which also includes the skunks). They are not a natural taxonomic grouping, but are united by possession of a squat body adapted for fossorial activity. All belong to the caniform suborder of carnivoran mammals. The 11 species of mustelid badgers are grouped in four subfamilies: Melinae (4 species, including the European badger), Helictidinae (5 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 Melinae; the estimated split dates are about 17.8, 15.5 and 14.8 million years ago, respectively. [1] 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. [2]

Omnivore organism consuming a variety of foods, usually including both plants and animals as itdietn

An omnivore is an animal that has the ability to eat and survive on both plant and animal matter. Obtaining energy and nutrients from plant and animal matter, omnivores digest carbohydrates, protein, fat, and fiber, and metabolize the nutrients and energy of the sources absorbed. Often, they have the ability to incorporate food sources such as algae, fungi, and bacteria into their diet.

Mustelidae Family of mammals

The Mustelidae are a family of carnivorous mammals, including weasels, badgers, otters, ferrets, martens, mink, and wolverines, among others. Mustelids are a diverse group and form the largest family in the order Carnivora, suborder Caniformia. Mustelidae comprises about 56–60 species across eight subfamilies.

Otter subfamily of mammals

Otters are carnivorous mammals in the subfamily Lutrinae. The 13 extant otter species are all semiaquatic, aquatic or marine, with diets based on fish and invertebrates. Lutrinae is a branch of the weasel family Mustelidae, which also includes badgers, honey badgers, martens, minks, polecats, and wolverines.

Badger mandibular condyles connect to long cavities in their skulls, which gives resistance to jaw dislocation and increases their bite grip strength. [3] 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.

Mammal class of tetrapods

Mammals are vertebrate animals constituting the class Mammalia, and characterized by the presence of mammary glands which in females produce milk for feeding (nursing) their young, a neocortex, fur or hair, and three middle ear bones. These characteristics distinguish them from reptiles and birds, from which they diverged in the late Triassic, 201–227 million years ago. There are around 5,450 species of mammals. The largest orders are the rodents, bats and Soricomorpha. The next three are the Primates, the Cetartiodactyla, and the Carnivora.

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), with some Eurasian badgers around 18 kg (40 lb). [4]


An adult female (sow) American badger AmericanBadger.JPG
An adult female (sow) American badger

The word "badger", originally applied to the European badger (Meles meles), comes from earlier bageard (16th century), [5] presumably referring to the white mark borne like a badge on its forehead. [6] Similarly, a now archaic synonym was bauson ‘badger’ (1375), a variant of bausond ‘striped, piebald’, from Old French bausant, baucent ‘id.’. [7]

European badger species of carnivorans

The European badger also known as the Eurasian badger or simply badger, is a species of badger in the family Mustelidae and is native to almost all of Europe and some parts of West Asia. Several subspecies are recognized; the nominate subspecies predominates over most of Europe. The European badger is classified as being of least concern by the IUCN as it has a wide range and a large population size which is stable, and even increasing in some areas. Badger holes can range in length from 1 to 2 miles long, and there can be up to 6 holes leading in and intersecting.

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". [6] 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"), [8] and from these words the common Romance terms for the animal evolved (Italian tasso, French taissonblaireau is now more common—Catalan toixó, Spanish tejón, Portuguese texugo). [9]

Old English, or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest historical form of the English language, spoken in England and southern and eastern Scotland in the early Middle Ages. It was brought to Great Britain by Anglo-Saxon settlers probably in the mid-5th century, and the first Old English literary works date from the mid-7th century. After the Norman conquest of 1066, English was replaced, for a time, as the language of the upper classes by Anglo-Norman, a relative of French. This is regarded as marking the end of the Old English era, as during this period the English language was heavily influenced by Anglo-Norman, developing into a phase known now as Middle English.

Celtic languages Language family

The Celtic languages are a group of related languages descended from Proto-Celtic. They form a branch of the Indo-European language family. The term "Celtic" was first used to describe this language group by Edward Lhuyd in 1707, following Paul-Yves Pezron, who made the explicit link between the Celts described by classical writers and the Welsh and Breton languages.

A loanword is a word adopted from one language and incorporated into another language without translation. This is in contrast to cognates, which are words in two or more languages that are similar because they share an etymological origin, and calques, which involve translation.

A male European badger is a boar, a female is a sow, and a young badger is a cub. 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, [10] but badger colonies are more often called clans. A badger's home is called a sett. [11]


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, Ireland, Great Britain [14] and most of the rest of Europe as far north as southern Scandinavia. [15] They live as far east as Japan and China. The Javan ferret-badger lives in Indonesia, [16] and the Bornean ferret-badger lives in Malaysia. [17] The honey badger is found in most of sub-Saharan Africa, the Arabian Desert, southern Levant, Turkmenistan, and India. [18]


The behavior 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.

Badgers are nocturnal. [19]

In North America, coyotes sometimes eat badgers and vice versa, but the majority of their interactions seem to be mutual or neutral. [20] American badgers and coyotes have been seen hunting together in a cooperative fashion. [21]


The diet of the Eurasian badger consists largely of earthworms (especially Lumbricus terrestris ), [22] 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. [23] In Britain, they are the main predator of hedgehogs, which have demonstrably [24] lower populations in areas where badgers are numerous, so that hedgehog rescue societies do not release hedgehogs into known badger territories. [25] They are occasional predators of domestic chickens, [26] and are able to break into enclosures that a fox cannot. In southern Spain, badgers feed to a significant degree on rabbits. [27]

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. [28] There are also cases of badgers coming into homes and eating mashed potato. [29]

Relation with humans


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. [30] 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. [31] 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 [32] 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.

Badger pelts Taxidea taxus (American badger) fur skin.jpg
Badger pelts

Badgers have been trapped commercially for their pelts, which have been used for centuries to make shaving brushes, [33] [31] 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. [34] 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 [33] and as trim for some Native American garments. [35]


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. [36]

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, [37] whilst others favoured a programme of vaccination. Wales and Northern Ireland are currently (2013) conducting field trials of a badger vaccination programme. [38] In 2012 the government authorised a limited cull [39] led by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. However it was later deferred and a wide range of reasons given. [40] 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". [38]


Although rarely eaten today in the United States or the United Kingdom, [41] badgers were once a primary meat source for the diets of Native Americans and European colonists. [42] [43] [44] [45] [46] Badgers were also eaten in Britain during World War II and the 1950s. [43] In some areas of Russia, the consumption of badger meat is still widespread. [47] Shish kebabs made from badger, along with dog meat and pork, are a major source of trichinosis outbreaks in the Altai Region of Russia. [47] In Croatia, badger meat is rarely eaten. But when it is, it's usually smoked, dried, or served in goulash. [48] 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. [49] Badger meat was eaten in some parts of Spain until recently. [50]


Badgers can be tamed and then kept as pets. [51] 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. [52]

Badger, Ratty, Mole, and Mr. Toad from The Wind in the Willows The Wind in the Willows.PNG
Badger, Ratty, Mole, and Mr. Toad from The Wind in the Willows

In medieval times, badgers were thought to work 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. [53]

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), most often falling under the title of Badger Lord or Badger Mother. A badger god 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 of "The Badger Song" shows a group doing calisthenics; in Pokémon , Typhlosion and Linoone are based on badgers. Walt Disney's 1973 film Robin Hood , depicts the character of Friar Tuck as a badger. In the Doctor Snuggles series, Dennis the handyman, was a badger. In Weird Al Yankovic's 1989 film UHF, one scene shows Raul Hernandez checking off a shipment of animals he’s receiving against the order form, giving him an opportunity to parody a famous quote from both the 1948 movie The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and the subsequent 1974 Mel Brooks film Blazing Saddles: “Badgers? Badgers? We don’t need no stinking badgers!” [54]

In Europe, badgers were traditionally used to predict the length of winter. [55] The badger is the state animal of the US state of Wisconsin [56] and 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, fuelled 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. [57]

The viral video Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger became popular in 2011, attaining over 68 million views on YouTube as of July 2014. The video features footage from the Nat Geo WILD network of honey badgers fighting jackals, invading beehives, and eating cobras, with a voiceover added by the uploader, "Randall".

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. [58]

As a sub-series of the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, Sticks the Badger is one of the main characters of the Sonic Boom series. [59] [60]

See also

Related Research Articles

Hedgehog subfamily of small spiny mammals

A hedgehog is any of the spiny mammals of the subfamily Erinaceinae, in the eulipotyphlan family Erinaceidae. There are seventeen species of hedgehog in five genera found through 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 family of mammals known for their odor

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.

Honey badger species of mammal

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.

<i>Meles</i> (genus) genus of badgers

Meles is a genus of badgers containing three living species, the Japanese badger, Asian 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.

American badger species of mammal

The American badger is a North American badger, somewhat similar in appearance to the European badger, although not closely related. It is found in the western and central United States, northern Mexico, and south-central Canada to certain areas of southwestern British Columbia.

Sunda stink badger species of mammal

The Sunda stink badger, also called the Javan stink badger, teledu, Malay stink badger, Malay badger, Indonesian stink badger and Sunda skunk, is a mammal native to Indonesia and Malaysia. Despite the common name, stink badgers are not closely related to true badgers, and are, instead, Old World relatives of the skunks.

Hog badger species of mammal

The hog badger, also known as the greater hog badger, is a terrestrial mustelid native to Central and 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.

Bornean ferret-badger species of mammal

The Bornean ferret-badger, also known as Everett's ferret-badger or the Kinabalu ferret-badger, is a member of the family Mustelidae. The scientific name commemorates British colonial administrator and zoological collector Alfred Hart Everett.

Palawan stink badger species of mammal

The Palawan stink badger, or pantot, is a carnivoran of the western Philippines named for its resemblance to badgers, its powerful smell, and the largest island to which it is native, Palawan. Like all stink badgers, the Palawan stink badger was once thought to share a more recent common ancestor with badgers than with skunks. Recent genetic evidence, however, has led to their re-classification as one of the Mephitidae, the skunk family of mammals. It is the size of a large skunk or small badger, and uses its badger-like body to dig by night for invertebrates in open areas near patches of brush. While it lacks the whitish dorsal patches typical of its closest relatives, predators and hunters generally avoid the powerful noxious chemicals it can spray from the specialized anal glands characteristic of mephitids.

Chinese ferret-badger species of mammal

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-badger genus of mammals

Ferret-badgers are the five species of the genus Melogale, which is the only genus of the monotypic mustelid subfamily Helictidinae.

Javan ferret-badger species of mammal

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 badger genus of skunks

Stink badgers (Mydaus) are a genus of the skunk family of carnivorans, the Mephitidae. They resemble the better known members of family Mustelidae also termed 'badgers'. There are only two extant species - the Palawan stink badger, and the Sunda stink badger or Teledu. They live only on western islands of the Malay Archipelago: Sumatra, Java, Borneo and on the Philippine island of Palawan; as well as many other, smaller islands in the region.

Burmese ferret-badger species of mammal

The Burmese ferret-badger, also known as the large-toothed ferret-badger, is a species of mammal in the family Mustelidae.

Japanese badger species of mammal

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 the Asian and European badgers. In Japan it is called by the name nihonanaguma (ニホンアナグマ), lit. "Japan 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.

Palaeomephitis steinheimensis is an extinct species of skunk of the Miocene epoch in Europe. It is the earliest known species of the family Mephitidae.


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