Honey Badger (Mellivora capensis)

I usually come up with what animal I’m going blog about on my own, but every so often someone sends in a request. I’m happy to take requests, especially if they’re about obscure animals that I know little about. So today I’m going to blog about the honey badger, a member of the weasel family that is really quite remarkable.

Honey badgers have an extremely wide range, due to their nomadic natures. They have been found through most  of Africa, in Iran and in India. They prefer areas that are not too hot and arid, but also avoid dense areas of jungle and forest. Honey badgers are fantastic diggers, and sleep in burrows that they can dig in hard ground in as little as ten minutes. Despite their name, honey badgers are not quite badgers, although they are in the same family. Honey badgers are more closely related to weasels, but are placed in a genus of their own, due to their uniqueness.

Although they are fairly small (up to 35 pounds), honey badgers have a fearsome reputation, and it is well deserved. They have a nickname as the world’s most fearless animal, which is fairly accurate. A couple of key adaptations allow the reckless honey badger to survive and to thrive, while still maintaining its reputation. After all, if you can’t remain the world’s most fearless animal, what’s the point in living?

A honey badger munching happily on a (probably venomous) snake.

A honey badger munching happily on a (probably venomous) snake. Image credit: http://www.bloodsprayer.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/honeybadger.jpg

Honey badgers have extremely thick and extremely loose skin – this allows them to avoid venomous snake bites, bee stings and porcupine quills, and also to twist out of the jaws of any attacker foolish enough to grab them. Honey badgers have tiny ears, to avoid animals grabbing them during fights, and are built to be tough. They are low to the ground with sturdy legs, and feet with very tough, very deadly claws. The claws are very long on the front feet and short on the back paws.

The honey badger is a carnivore, but will eat fruits and vegetables, and of course, honey. Some sources say that honey badgers are guided to bees nests by a bird called the honeyguide, but there has been no proof of this claim. Honey badgers, as I’ve said, are fierce, and will attack animals much larger than themselves. They have been known to attack domestic sheep, and also chase young lions away from their kills. They eat venomous snakes, lizards, turtles, birds, and eggs. So pretty much anything they can find. They also don’t waste anything, eating the entire animal, include the hair or feathers, skin and bones.

A fantastic shot of a honey badger facing down a lion. Image credit: Bennie van Zyl

A fantastic shot of a honey badger facing down a lion. Image credit: Bennie van Zyl

Honey badgers are secretive animals, and usually live alone. When they live near human settlements, they are nocturnal, and thus hard to find. Because of their wide range and private behaviour, very little is known about honey badger reproduction. It is thought that they breed, as every so often little honey badgers are seen roaming around.

One thing I have learnt during the research for this post is this: don’t attack a honey badger. Just don’t do it. They will not back down, or get afraid, and they probably won’t die. They can fight off lions, and will attack buffalo, cows and horses if the larger animals bother them. They don’t get tired, and thus often wear out larger prey simply by outlasting them in combat. They also have a nasty reputation for going after their foe’s testicles, so watch out for that if you are badger hunting. If you are trying to kill a honey badger (I don’t recommend it), get a gun. Apparently their skin is so thick it can resist blows from a machete, and arrows and spears just bounce right off. They also emit a foul smelling secretion from their anal gland when threatened, so prepare for a nasty treat if you do go honey badger hunting.

Before I finish up this post, there’s one other thing that make honey badgers scary. They can use tools. In the wild they have been observed rolling logs close to bird’s nests to better reach the tasty chicks inside, and used a multitude of tools (a rake, sticks, stones and mud) to escape from a zoo in Africa. So please don’t attack honey badgers, because they are just so cool, and also because they’ll attack you first, and they will win. They are faster, fiercer, stronger, more resilient, and probably smarter than most of the people who attack them. So just don’t do it!

Cover photo credit:http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-PZ_Cd7dBZJQ/UAa82KMxl3I/AAAAAAAANEY/2eswJe_PikE/s1600/Honey+badger4.jpg

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