August 25, 2020
AZ Animals Staff
Honey Badger Scientific ClassificationKingdom: Animalia
Scientific Name: Mellivora Capensis
Honey Badger Conservation Status:Least Concern
Honey Badger Location:
Honey Badger Fun Fact:Most fearless animal on Earth!
Honey Badger Facts:
Name Of Young: Kit
Fun Fact: Most fearless animal on Earth!
Estimated Population Size: Unknown
Biggest Threat: Humans
Most Distinctive Feature: Large, sharp claws
Other Name(s): Ratel
Gestation Period: 6 Months
Habitat: Dry Areas, Grasslands, Forests
Average Litter Size: 2
Lifestyle: Diurnal, Crepuscular, or Nocturnal Depending on Region and Season
Common Name: Honey Badger
Number Of Species: 1
Location: Africa, Asia, Indian Subcontinent
Slogan: One of earth's bravest creatures!
Honey Badger Physical Characteristics:Skin Type: Thick, Loose Skin Covered in Hair
Top Speed: miles mph
Lifespan: 7-8 years in the wild, 24 years in captivity
Weight: 11 to 35 pounds
Height: 9.1 to 11 inches
Length: 22 to 30 inches
Age of Sexual Maturity: 1 to 2 Years
Age of Weaning: 2 to 3 Months
Honey badgers are the world’s most fearless animal.
Capybaras win the award for world’s friendliest animal, but on the opposite end of the spectrum sits the honey badger, the planet’s gnarliest mammal! The “Guinness Book of World Records” lists the small, weasel-like species as the most fearless on Earth. And thanks to a 2011 viral YouTube video, they have earned the reputation for “not caring” — an apt description for animals that attack and steal at will!
Perhaps on account of the honey badgers' irascible personalities, scientists haven’t much studied the species. Regardless, let’s dive into what we do know!
6 Phenomenal Honey Badger Facts
- Honey badgers are one of the few animals naturally immune to venomous snake bites. It is believed that they develop this over time by eating lesser venomous creatures first and working its way up.
- Their thick, loose skin can easily withstand shots from bows, arrows, and even machetes! The most effective way to kill honey badgers is a gunshot or skull-breaking blow to the back of the head.
- Honey badgers are the only species in the Mellivora genus and are often locally known as 'ratels.'
- Ratels can dig a nearly 10-foot-long tunnel into hard earth within 10 minutes with their sharp, strong claws.
- “Honey Badger” has become a common nickname for athletes and politicians with reputations for ruthlessness.
- In 2011, a video entitled “The Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger” went viral. It was a compilation of various honey badgers doing their ferocious thing, and the only voice-over was a man basically just saying, “honey badgers don’t care.” To date, people have viewed the video nearly 100 million times.
Honey Badger Scientific Name
The scientific name for honey badger is Mellivora capensis. Mellivora comes from both ancient Greek and Latin. “Meli” is Greek for “honey,” and “varo” is a Latin verb meaning “to eat” or “to devour.” Capensis is a geographical reference to the Cape of Good Hope, where Johann Christian Daniel von Schreber first described the species. So, strung together, the scientific name for honey badgers translates to “honey eater of the cape.” Which is fitting, since these animals do like to eat honey.
In parts of the world, the animals are also known as “ratels.”
Honey Badger Appearance
What do honey badgers look like? Well, anatomically speaking, they have more in common with weasels than other badgers. But in everyday terms, you could say that honey badgers resemble overgrown skunks.
Scientists currently recognize 12 honey badger subspecies with slight aesthetic differences. Generally speaking, all honey badgers have long bodies, broad backs, flat heads, short legs, small eyes, tiny ear ridges, stumpy tails, and short muzzles. What isn’t tiny are their claws, which are strong and long.
Honey badgers are also known for having steel-like skin. It’s thick and loose and can withstand arrow piercings and machete attacks. Plus, bee stings and porcupine pricks don’t affect them in the slightest.
Depending on the subspecies, honey badgers have all black fur or black fur with a white streak that runs along their spine. In the winter, they carry long, dense fur coats, which shed in the summer.
Size-wise, ratels are the largest land mustelids in Africa. Typically, measuring from the shoulder, they’re between 9.1 and 11 inches tall and 22 to 30 inches long. Males usually weigh about 20 to 35 pounds on average; while females tip the scales between 11 and 22 pounds - about the size of a small or medium dog.
But if you find yourself lost in the bush, know that honey badgers can grow to enormous sizes under ideal conditions. Good examples are the three 40-pound females that researchers found living in the Iraqi wild.
Honey Badger Behavior
In terms of behavior, these animals are both notoriously cranky and aggressive. Ratels are both fearless and mean, and they'll attack almost any animal, including humans, when there's no escape. To boot, they purposely pick fights and rudely take over other animals' dens. For the most part, honey badgers stick to themselves, but mating pairs occasionally hang out together in the spring.
As Mother Nature's backhoe, honey badgers are skilled diggers that can claw long tunnels and burrows in under 10 minutes. Other times, when they're feeling lazy, ratels will commander the dens of aardvarks and warthogs.
Like skunks, honey badgers omit an atrocious odor to repel predators. Their scent also paralyzes bees, making it easier for honey badgers to raid hives for honey.
Honey Badger Habitat
Twelve subspecies of honey badgers are scattered across Africa and parts of the Middle East, Asia, and the Indian subcontinent. Populations of the species stick to dry areas, grasslands, and forests.
The 12 different species of honey badgers live in different areas, shown in the table below.
|Cape Ratel||South and Southwestern Africa|
|Indian Ratel||Asia, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, India|
|White-Backed Ratel||West Africa, Southern Morocco, Congo, Gabon, Central African Republic|
|Black Ratel||Ghana, Congo|
|Lake Chad Ratel||Sudan, Somali-land|
|Speckled Ratel||Sierra Leone|
|Persian Ratel||Iran, Iraq|
|Arabian Ratel||Southern Arabia|
Honey Badger Diet
Ratels are omnivores with gigantic appetites, and when they kill, they eat the entire animal, including fur and feathers.
Honey badgers derive a chunk of their nutrients from digging up larva and other insects, but they also feast on snakes, frogs, lizards, turtles, rodents, bird eggs, berries, bulbs, and roots. Honey badgers who call the Kalahari home also eat sheep and goats, and in India, ratels sometimes dig up human remains for meals.
They also eat a lot of poultry, and it’s nearly impossible for game farmers to guard against honey badgers because they dig tunnels to gain access to chicken coups. Plus, honey badgers can dismantle wood enclosures with little effort.
Evidenced by their name, honey badgers also love honey and regularly raid beehives to snatch their favorite snack.
Honey Badger Predators and Threats
Humans aren’t the only species that honor honey badgers as formidable and ferocious foes. Even mighty lions — though they’ve been known to kill honey badgers on occasion — will typically grant the tenacious fighters a wide berth.
Not only is the species combative by nature, but their anatomical features serve as highly effective armor. They can squirm around in their thick, loose skin, making it harder for would-be predators to latch on. Plus, honey badgers are equipped with killer claws and teeth strong enough to slice through tortoise shells.
Despite their formidable defense mechanisms, honey badgers have a handful of natural predators, including African leopards, African rock pythons, Nile crocodiles, and spotted hyenas. Habitat encroachment is also a problem.
Reproduction, Babies, and Lifespan
Very little is known about honey badgers’ reproductive and parenting lives. The only reliable data is a 42-month-long study conducted by the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park.
What do we know about honey badger reproduction? They mate throughout the year, with a spike in the spring, and gestation lasts about six months. Females have four teats to nurse newborns but only give birth to one or two kits — the term for badger cubs — at a time.
Babies are born blind, suckle for two to three months, and are dependent on their mothers for about a year. In the wild, honey badgers live for about seven to eight years, whereas individuals living in captivity live to the ripe old honey badger age of about 24.
Honey Badger Population
According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, honey badgers are a least concern species and not in danger of imminent extinction. But that doesn’t mean honey badgers are without threats.
Human population growth causes more wildlife encroachment. In days of old, people and honey badgers rarely came into contact. But these days, honey badgers often find themselves face-to-face with armed farmers committed to protecting their livestock. As a result, honey badger population numbers are declining.
Currently, there isn’t a worldwide estimate for the honey badger population, but they’re disappearing from places where they were once plentiful.
Honey Badger FAQs
What is a honey badger?
Are honey badgers carnivores, herbivores, or omnivores?
Honey badgers are omnivores, meaning they eat flesh and plants. Much of their diet consists of insects, but they will also eat snakes, turtles, berries, and, of course, honey.
Can a honey badger kill a human?
The jury is still out as to whether or not honey badgers kill humans. There are stories from the early 20th century of man-eating ratels, but historians and scientists think they’re probably folklore. However, Indian honey badgers reportedly attack young children, and individuals of the subspecies are known to dig up human remains for dinner.
In 2007, a conspiracy theory circulated about “man-eating” honey badgers in Iraq. But according to area vets and conservationists, honey badgers have always lived in the country’s rural areas, but a marshland flooding north of Basra that year pushed the animals towards the city.
How aggressive is a honey badger?
Honey badgers are one of the most aggressive species on Earth! The “Guinness Book of World Records” lists them as the world’s most fearless animal.
Why are honey badgers so fearless?
Honey badgers are so bold because they have built-in armor. Due to their protective skin, hardly anything can penetrate it, including other animals’ teeth, machetes, and arrows! Plus, they’re naturally aggressive, have strong jaws, and were endowed with teeth that can cut through just about anything.
How dangerous is a honey badger?
Honey badgers are dangerous! They never back down, have lethal teeth, and attack any moving thing if they feel threatened.