The Honey badger is a large species of the mustelid family. These animals have small eyes and large skulls. The neck and shoulders are strong and muscular. Their hind feet are small, having short claws, whereas the front feet are, conversely, strong and wide, having large claws, which help badgers in catching prey and running. Being thick and loose, their skin is extremely difficult to seize for predators. Meanwhile, it allows badgers to extricate themselves and bite the opponent.
Different subspecies of the Honey badger vary in color. However, as a general rule, these animals are dark black ventrally, having the characteristic dorsal mantle, which is typically grey or bright white, extending the whole length of its body and turning to black at the base of the tail.
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Honey badgers occur in Africa, southwestern Asia, and the Indian subcontinent.
The area of their distribution covers most part of sub-Saharan Africa, stretching from the Western Cape (South Africa) northwards, reaching southern Morocco and southwestern Algeria. In Asia, the badgers are found in Arabian Peninsula, Iran as well as western Asia, from Turkmenistan to the Indian Peninsula. These terrestrial mammals are found in different environments, from tropical and sub-tropical green and riparian forest to desert; from grassland to rocky hills; from open woodland to thorn forest and arid steppe.
The honey badger has a fairly long body, but is distinctly thick-set and broad across the back. Its skin is remarkably loose, and allows the animal to turn and twist freely within it. The skin around the neck is 6 millimetres (0.24 in) thick, an adaptation to fighting conspecifics. The head is small and flat, with a short muzzle. The eyes are small, and the ears are little more than ridges on the skin, another possible adaptation to avoiding damage while fighting.
The honey badger has short and sturdy legs, with five toes on each foot. The feet are armed with very strong claws, which are short on the hind legs and remarkably long on the forelimbs. It is a partially plantigrade animal whose soles are thickly padded and naked up to the wrists. The tail is short and is covered in long hairs, save for below the base.
Honey badgers are the largest terrestrial mustelids in Africa. Adults measure 23 to 28 cm (9.1 to 11.0 in) in shoulder height and 55–77 cm (22–30 in) in body length, with the tail adding another 12–30 cm (4.7–11.8 in). Females are smaller than males. In Africa, males weigh 9 to 16 kg (20 to 35 lb) while females weigh 5 to 10 kg (11 to 22 lb) on average. The mean weight of adult honey badgers from different areas has been reported at anywhere between 6.4 to 12 kg (14 to 26 lb), with a median of roughly 9 kg (20 lb), per various studies.
This positions it as the third largest known badger, after the European badger and hog badger, and fourth largest extant terrestrial mustelid after additionally the wolverine.
However, the average weight of three wild females from Iraq was reported as 18 kg (40 lb), about the typical weight of male wolverines or male European badgers in late autumn, indicating that they can attain much larger than typical sizes in favorable conditions.
However, an adult female and two males in India were relatively small, at the respective weights of 6.4 kg (14 lb) and a median of 8.4 kg (19 lb). Skull length is 13.9–14.5 cm (5.5–5.7 in) in males and 13 cm (5.1 in) for females.
Habits and Lifestyle
Honey badgers are nocturnal animals but may sometimes be active during the day. They are solitary and typically have a large home range. In addition, they are nomadic, making daily foraging trips; male badgers can travel up to 27 km (16.7 mi) daily, whereas females tend to make shorter trips of about 10 km (3.2 mi) per day. After foraging, adult males often congregate to socialize, communicating with each other by grunts, sniffing one another as well as wallowing in the sand.
However, Honey badgers are commonly known as aggressive animals, so these interactions between males occasionally grow into confrontations, when one of the males tries to enter another’s burrow, they start their dominance dance with each one defending its right to the burrow. Also, when threatened, male badgers tend to aggressively protect their partners.
Diet and Nutrition
Honey badgers are generally carnivorous, consuming snakes, frogs, small species of rodents, birds, and eggs. They also supplement their diet with fruit, bulbs and roots.
Honey badgers have a polygynous mating system. Usually, adult males compete with each other for mating rights. Although these animals mate throughout the year, research,
conducted in southern Africa, showed that the peak period of mating is between September and December. The gestation period lasts 50-70 days. There are typically one to two offspring per litter.
The baby is born in a burrow, living there for the first 3 months of its life. Soon the young is weaned, usually being cared by its mother for 1-2 years. Males of this species become reproductively mature at 2-3 years old, whereas females – much earlier – at 12-16 months of age.
Honey badgers are hunted for their skin and claws, which are used in traditional medicine, believed to convey the braveness and savagery of the animal to a human. In addition, the badgers are often trapped and poisoned both intentionally and unintentionally by farmers and apiculturists, who protect their property from predators.
The exact number of Honey badger is presently unknown but decreasing. The species is quite infrequent throughout its wide range, being classified on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern (LC).
The Honey badger is an opportunistic predator. The animal has a rather diverse diet, hunting a wide variety of animals and thus keeping in check populations of these species. In addition, older badgers are easy prey for larger local predators, including leopards, lions, and hyenas.
Fun Facts for Kids
- Honey badgers are known to find and feed upon honey, and this gives them their name – “honey badgers”. In addition, they eat bee larvae, despite attacking hives of Africanized Honey Bees or, otherwise called, “killer bees”.
- Feeding upon honey, they bring humans to honey sites. The Boran people, for example, use these badgers, when looking for honey: they give out a special whistle, which attracts Honeyguides to the area.
- Honeyguides are a species of bird, leading Honey badgers to hives of bees. Both Honeyguides and Honey badgers feed upon bee larvae. Usually, the Honey badger breaks the beehive, eating larvae, after which the Honeyguide flies into the beehive, eating the scraps left behind.
- Males of this species are referred to as “boars”, females are called “sows”, while young are known as “kits”.
- Honey badgers are amazingly strong and fast diggers. In just a few minutes, the animal can dig a deep hole into the hard ground, where it can hide.