Honey badger facts, pictures, video & in-depth information: learn about this fearsome African animal.
Honey Badger Facts At A Glance
- Other Name(s): ratel
- Scientific name: Mellivora capensis
- Type of Animal: Mammal (member of the order Carnivora)
- Animal Family: Mustelidae (the weasel family), subfamily Mellivorinae
- Where Found: Africa, Middle East, India
- Length: 67 to 107 cm (26 to 42 in), including tail
- Height: 23 to 30 cm (9 to 12 in.)
- Weight: (Male) 9 to 16 kg (20 to 35 lb.); (female) 5 to 10 kg (11 to 22 lb.)
- Conservation Status: Least Concern
- Other interesting Honey Badger facts: The species likes eating honey and will often raid beehives, which is how it got its name.
Meet The Honey Badger: Introduction
The honey badger (also known as a ratel) is a short but powerfully-built mammal in the weasel family. It is found in Africa, the Middle East and India.
Despite being relatively small, the species has a reputation for being fierce and seemingly fearless. Its thick skin and powerful claws and teeth allow it to hold its own against animals much larger than itself.
How To Recognize A Honey Badger
The honey badger’s long body is carried on four short legs. It has a long neck and a short, bushy tail. Its eyes are small and dark and its ears barely protrude from the sides of its face.
The honey badger’s face, sides and undersides are covered with thick, black hair. The top of its head and its back are covered with a continuous patch of grey-white hair.
The honey badger’s skin is tough and loose-fitting. This is a useful defensive adaptation; even if the honey badger finds itself clamped in a larger animal’s jaws, thanks to its loose skin it is able to turn round to bite the would-be predator.
The honey badger is tougher than it looks, as many African predators have found to their cost. As well as having extremely tough skin, the honey badger is equipped with some impressive weaponry.
The claws on the honey badger’s forepaws are long, curved and powerful (the claws on the hind feet are comparatively short) and its mouth is full of short, sharp teeth.
Honey Badger Video
Honey badgers aren’t just tough; they’re also highly intelligent. You can see just how smart they are in the video below:
Honey Badger Facts: Size
The honey badger is the largest mustelid (member of the weasel family, Mustelidae) found in Africa, but it is by no means the largest predator on the block. It shares its habitat with lions, hyenas and a plethora of other dangerous animals.
Male honey badgers are between 5 and 16 kg (11 to 35 lb.) in weight, with a total body length (including tail) that ranges from 67 to 107 cm (26 to 42 in.).
Honey badgers are around the same weight as the jackal species with which they share part of their range.
Honey Badger Size In Relation To Familiar American & European Animals
The honey badger weighs slightly less than a coyote, and is a similar size and weight to a European badger.)
Where Does The Honey Badger Live?
Despite being found across a wide area, which includes most of Africa, much of the Middle East and part of Asia, the honey badger’s population density (the number of individuals found in a single area) is very low.
The African population is mostly found south of the Sahara desert. The honey badger is found in several Middle Eastern countries (including Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Iran), in western Asia and in India.
Honey Badger Habitat
The honey badger is extremely adaptable, and is able to live in a wide range of habitats, including rainforests, savannas, grasslands and deserts.
Honey Badger Behavior
Adult honey badgers usually live alone, only pairing up during the breeding season. They are primarily nocturnal, but can be active at any time of the day, especially in areas uninhabited by humans.
The honey badger usually digs its own burrow, but will also use the abandoned burrows of other animals, including those of the aardvark and various fox species.
The honey badger’s burrow is relatively simple, consisting of just a tunnel and a resting chamber. It rarely exceeds 3 m (10 ft.) in length and 1.5 m (5 ft.) in depth. The honey badger will fiercely defend its burrow from larger animals who wander too close.
The honey badger is not strongly territorial. A male honey badger has a large home range, which can cover up to 500 km2 (193 square miles). This will take in the home ranges of several females, and will also overlap with the home ranges of other males. Honey badgers leave scent markings to communicate with each other.
Honey badgers produce a range of sounds, including grunts, growls and whines. When they meet they will sniff each other and roll around, leaving scent marks on the ground.
The honey badger is a highly intelligent animal and there is some evidence of it using objects as tools. Captive animals have been observed piling objects on top of each other in order to escape from an enclosure. Another individual was seen to move a log in order to be able to reach some food.
The honey badger has a reputation for being fierce, but the one in the video below is (almost) cute …
Honey Badger Diet
The honey badger is an omnivore (it eats both meat and plants), although meat forms the bulk of its diet. Although it hunts most of its own prey, it will scavenge food, and also steal food from other predators.
The honey badger is an opportunistic generalist hunter (i.e. it will eat pretty much whatever it can get its paws on), and does not have a specialized diet. It eats a wide range of animals. Any animal smaller than the honey badger is potential prey, as are mid-sized species and the young of large species such as antelopes.
Small mammals make up the majority of the honey badger’s diet, but it will also eat reptiles (including snakes) and birds.
The honey badger seeks out honey from bees’ nests and hives. It is the species’ liking for honey that gave the honey badger its name.
Honey Badger Predators
The honey badger is not an easy meal, and has few natural predators. However, despite its tough reputation, the honey badger is not at the top of the food chain.
Large predators such as lions and leopards will prey on the honey badger. Black backed jackals have been known to prey on honey badger cubs.
A honey badger won’t go down without a fight, so larger predators soon come to learn only to approach this combative little animal as a last resort.
Honey Badger Family & Related Animals
The honey badger is a mammal, and a member of the order Carnivora. It is the only animal of genus Mellivora, and a member of the family Mustelidae (the weasel family). Other animals in this family include weasels, badgers, otters, martens and the wolverine.
Confused by terms such as ‘order’ and ‘family’? Take a look at our article on animal classification.
Despite its name, the honey badger isn’t closely related to other badger species. Its closest living relatives are the martens.
Honey Badger Subspecies
There are 12 honey badger subspecies. There are small physical differences between the various subspecies. These include size, and the color and amount of pale fur present on their bodies. Some subspecies have little or no pale fur. Each subspecies is found in a different area.
Honey Badger Facts: Reproduction
Male and female honey badgers only come together for a short time to mate, after which time the male resumes its usual solitary lifestyle. The female digs a burrow and gives birth to a single cub (very occasionally to twins) after a gestation period of 50 to 70 days.
A newborn honey badger cub is blind and hairless, and completely reliant on its mother. Even after reaching adult size at 6 months old, the cub will remain with its mother for at least another 8 months. During this time it is taught how to fend for itself.
Is The Honey Badger Endangered?
Despite being a rare animal, the honey badger is found across a wide area and currently isn’t endangered. The species is rated ‘Least Concern’ by the IUCN. However, the honey badger population is thought to be decreasing.
Honey badgers are hunted by local people for food and for use in traditional medicines. They are also killed by local beekeepers who feel that the species is a threat to their livelihood.
Honey Badger Facts: Conclusion
Now that you’re a honey badger expert, find out more about other amazing animals:
- Explore the animal kingdom: A to Z Animals List
- Learn about mammals: Mammals: The Ultimate Guide
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This article was written on Jul 31, 2017.
The Active Wild Team