There are 7 different species of Badger found across 4 continents. This nocturnal omnivore can be found in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa and share the distinction of being incredibly strong for their size, and the world’s fastest diggers. All badgers have a low slung body, shovel-shaped head and strong, sharp claws. Most are dark gray or black with distinctive white stripes down their face and sides. They all prefer sandy, porous soil and dig extensive tunnels and burrows which are called setts.
The American Badger (Taxadea Taxus) is the most carnivorous of the species, using their stellar digging skills to unearth chipmunks, ground hogs and rabbits. They have even been known to eat rattlesnakes and, during the winter, will feed on carrion. The American Badger is the least social of the badger species, preferring a solitary existence. Occasionally, American Badgers have been known to share their setts with coyotes and foxes, and in one case, a lost child. The badger seemed to adopt the boy, bringing him food and keeping him safe. Although a determined fighter, the American Badger does leave its territory undefended against other badgers if the hunting is good.
The Eurasian Badger (Meles meles) has a territory that extends throughout Europe and Asia, from England to Japan, from Scandinavia to Italy. They are far more social than their American cousins and generations will share the same sett and territory. Some of these “family” burrows are believed to be at least 100 years old and one comprised a network of tunnels measuring over 1017 feet. The Eurasian Badger enjoys a more omnivorous diet of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and grains as well as some meat.
The Hog Badger (Arctonyx Collaris) stakes his claim to most of Asia and is closest in appearance to the Eurasian Badger. The main difference between the two is the Hog Badger’s hairless, pig-like snout, which has given it its name. Omnivorous, like other badgers, this fellow not only uses its claws, but its snouts as well to dig up earthworms, roots and tubers. The Hog Badger, or Sand Badger as it is sometimes called, is more apt to dine on insects and vegetables than on small mammals.
The Honey Badger (Mellivora Capensis), or Ratel, is not considered a “True” badger at all. It is the most visually diverse of the badger family, with a solid light gray coat on its upper body and long tail, and a solid black coat on its lower body. It lives primarily in Africa and the Middle East. Considered to be quite fierce, the Honey Badger frequently dines on poisonous snakes. The badger shares its taste for honey with the Honey Guide, a bird who finds a colony of bees and leads the badger to it. Once there, the Honey Badger’s thick pelt allows it to ignore the angry swarm, rip open the hive, and share the honey with the bird.
Fun Badger Facts
- Badgers have an excellent sense of hearing and smell, but don’t have very good eyesight.
- The Ferret Badger will occasionally sleep in trees.
- The Indonesian and Palawan Stink Badgers squirt a vile smelling liquid from their anal glands to deter an enemy. That is how they get their name.
- It was once believed that if a badger stopped in front of you and scratched the ground, you would soon die.
- Although not known for speed (except in digging), one badger joined some joggers for a run and kept up with them for almost 200 feet.
- In the classic children’s book, The Wind in the Willows, Mr. Badger is a very good friend to most of the small animals in the forest, including Ratty and Mole.
Nature Works – New Hampshire Public Television