Honey Badger Facts, Pictures: Complete Species Guide

Honey badger facts, pictures and in-depth information: discover an infamous African animal with a reputation for toughness and tenacity.

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, Asia
  • 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 honey badger will often raid beehives for honey and bee larvae; a behavior that gave the species its name.

Meet The Honey Badger: Introduction

The honey badger (also known as a ratel) is a mammal in the weasel family. It is found in Africa, the Middle East and India.

One of the largest species of the weasel family Mustelidae, the honey badger has a reputation for toughness. Its thick skin and powerful claws and teeth allow it to defend itself against animals much larger than itself.

How To Recognize A Honey Badger

Honey Badger In Arid Grassland

The honey badger has a squat, powerfully-built body, relatively short legs and a short, bushy tail. Its eyes are small and dark and its ears barely protrude from the head.

The honey badger's thick fur is black on the face, sides and undersides, and pale grey / white on the top of the head, neck and back. Its tough, loose-fitting skin is a 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.

Honey Badger In Grassland
Honey badgers are found in a variety of African habitats.

Each of the honey badger's feet has five strong, curved claws, with the claws of the forepaws being longer than those of the hindpaws. Its teeth are short and sharp.

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, and one of the largest overall, being smaller than a wolverine (the largest Musteild), and only slightly smaller than the greater hog badger and European badger.

On average, honey badgers are around 55 to 77 centimeters (22 to 30 inches) in length, with the tail adding another 17 to 30 centimeters (7 to 12 inches). Honey badgers weigh between 5 and 16 kilograms (11 and 35 pounds), with males weighing more than females.

Honey badgers are around the same weight as the jackal species with which they share part of their range.

European Badger
Both the honey badger and the similarly-sized European badger (shown above) are members of the weasel family, Mustelidae.

Where IS The Honey Badger Found?

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 is very low.

In Africa, the honey badger is mostly found south of the Sahara desert. The honey badger is also found in several Middle Eastern countries (including Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Iran), in western Asia and in India.


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 Digging
Honey badgers are usually solitary animals.

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.


Honey Badger Close Up Face
The honey badger is an omnivore.

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 both honey and bee larvae from wild bee nests and beehives – a behavior that gave the honey badger its name.


male lion
The honey badger may be tough, but it's no match for a lion.

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 the lion, leopard and African rock python will prey on the honey badger, although usually only as a last resort if no other food is available. Black-backed jackals have been known to prey on honey badger cubs.

Honey Badger Family & Related Animals

The honey badger is a mammal, and a member of the order Carnivora. If belongs to the family Mustelidae (the weasel family), and is the only animal of genus Mellivora.

Other mustelids (members of the family Mustelidae) 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

Currently, twelve honey badger subspecies are recognized (source). These include the Cape ratel, Indian ratel and black ratel (which is all black in color).

The various subspecies are found in different locations, and are distinguished by differences in size and coat markings.

Honey Badger Life Cycle

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 as it learns 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 is not 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 believe that the species is a threat to their livelihood.

Honey Badger Facts: Conclusion

Visit our main animals page for links to animal information and a complete guide to the animal kingdom: Animals

You can see more African animals on this page: African Animals

You can find out more about mammals on this page: Mammals – The Ultimate Guide

Discover different types of mammals on this page: Types of Mammals

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