Things to Know About the Honey Badger

The Honey Badger, also known as the Ratel, is a mammal commonly found in Africa, the Indian subcontinent, and Southwest Asia. It is the only species categorized in the genus Mellivora and the mustelid subfamily Mellivorinae. This species was named as such for its propensity of raiding beehives and feeding on honey and bee larvae.

Despite being named as a Honey Badger, this species does not resemble other badger species. Instead, it shares similar anatomical characteristics with weasels. The Guinness Book of World Records recognizes the Honey Badger as the World’s Most Fearless Creature because of its thick skin, aggressiveness, strength, and defensive abilities.

The Honey Badger was first described by German naturalist Johann Christian Daniel von Schreber in 1776, giving it the scientific name Viverra capensis. Gottlieb Conrad Christian Storr proposed Mellivorae as the genus name in 1780. The Honey Badger first appeared in Asia during the middle Pliocene epoch. It shares a close relation with the now-extinct genus Eomellivora.

16 zoological specimens during the 19th and 20th centuries were recognized as subspecies. In 2005, 12 subspecies are recognized through geographical and physical differences.

The 12 subspecies are as follows:

  • Cape Ratel
  • Indian Ratel
  • Nepalese Ratel
  • White-backed Ratel
  • Black Ratel
  • Lake Chad Ratel
  • Speckled Ratel
  • Ethiopian Ratel
  • Persian Ratel
  • Kenyan Ratel
  • Arabian Ratel
  • Turkmenian Ratel

Since this species and its subspecies occur in an extensive range, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List categorized them as Least Concern.

Its eight levels of scientific classification are as follows:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Mustelidae

Subfamily: Mellivorinae

Genus: Mellivora

Species: M. capensis

The physical characteristics of a Honey Badger

The Honey Badger has a relatively long body, but is conspicuously thick-set and broad across the back. Its thick skin (around ¼ inches), rubbery, and slightly loose skin that’s nearly impervious by usual arrows and spears are the reasons why this species is fearless. Its skin can take a full-blow from a sharp machete without cutting the skin all the way through. Its skin is its greatest defensive asset against predators.

Tough and thick, its skin is also loose, which allows it a bit of freedom of movement. Its loose skin enables the Honey Badger to wiggle in or escape the mouth of a predator by squirming around and attacking the predator’s face and eyes using its claws and sharp teeth.

The Honey Badger is the largest terrestrial mustelids in the African continent. It has short, sturdy legs, while its feet are armed with powerful claws. It can devour the meat and bones of its prey effortlessly—the turtle’s shell included.

The distribution and habitat of Honey Badgers

Honey Badgers occur through most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Arabia, Iran, western Asia, and the Indian Peninsula. They occur from sea level to more than 2,600 m above sea level.

The behavior of a Honey Badger

This species was not called the most fearless creature for nothing. Apart from its thick skin, strong jaws, and powerful claws, which makes it a brave mammal is its audacity, invasiveness, and aggressiveness. It likes to pick fights with the wild’s most fierce predators—lions, hyenas, leopards, and pythons. But that doesn’t mean Honey Badgers are invincible though! However, Honey Badgers have a strong resistance to snake venom. Their thick skin comes handy in so many ways.

Honey Badgers are extremely smart, too. It uses tools such as sticks, rake, stones, and mud to catch prey. It follows Honeyguide birds towards beehives wherein they will feed on honey and larvae.

Like other weasels, Honey Badgers are solitary. These animals keep themselves away from the public eye by wandering alone or together with a mate. These mammals emit a strong, stifling odor that acts as a defense against giant predators like lions. Their offensive and defensive abilities make them indeed seemingly fearless.

The diet of a Honey Badger

Honey Badgers are excellent diggers—they dig burrows to seek food and rest. They usually raid beehives (even those of the Killer Bees’ beehives) to feed on bee larvae and honey. Its diet mainly consists of frogs, tortoises, insects, turtles, rodents, lizards, birds, snakes, eggs, fruits, and vegetables. They devour their food from the skin to bones, clutching them down with its strong forepaws. When feeding on vegetables, it tears tree barks and lifts stones.