Badger Vs Skunk

Written by Colby Maxwell
Updated: December 7, 2022
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Badgers and skunks are mammals with a lot in common. Since the two share a few physical similarities, they can often be confused. Still, they are distinctly different species with plenty of differences between them. All it takes is one whiff to know which one you are dealing with and you won’t be likely to make the mistake again! Let’s discover: Badger Vs Skunk; what’s the difference?

Comparing a Badger and a Skunk

The main differences between badgers and skunks are their size, their defense mechanisms, and where they live.
SizeWeight: 24lbs – 30lbs
Length: 16in – 35in
Weight: 1.1-14lbs
Length: 12-17in
SprayMusk glands. Foul-smelling stink bombSpecial glands. Can launch foul-smelling spray
TailSmall, short tailLarge, bushy tail for warning
ColorBlack, white, grey, brown, tanBlack, white
DistributionNorth America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, AsiaNorth and South America

Key Differences Between a Badger and a Skunk

Badgers and skunks are both animals with the ability to pack a smelly punch, only in different ways. In fact, these two mammals aren’t closely related but have co-evolved the ability to use smell as a defense, causing many to assume their relatedness.

The main differences between a badger and a skunk are their size, their smelly defense mechanism, and their distribution.

When it comes to size, badgers are almost always larger. Although skunks are smaller, they pack their own punch. Skunks can shoot a fluid out of special glands that will repel even the most intent invader. Badgers can repurpose their anal glands that are intended for territorial marking and drop their own stink bomb, but it isn’t as targeted or powerful as skunks. When it comes to distribution, badgers have the edge. Badgers live on almost every continent in the world and have 15 different species. Skunks, however, only live in North and South America, with a disputed species living in Indonesia.

Although these are the main differences, there are a few more that can help us distinguish one from the other. Let’s take a closer look below.

Badger Vs Skunk: Size

Badger Vs Skunk

Badgers are larger than any species of skunk.

©Braam Collins/

One of the easiest ways to tell the difference between badgers and skunks is their size. Badgers are much larger than skunks, averaging between 24-30 lbs. The only time that a skunk and a badger would ever need to be identified by relative size is in North America since it’s the only range that both of them share. The largest species of badger is generally considered to be the European badger. The European badger is commonly used in cartoon descriptions and is often the one that most people are familiar with, although the American badger is a bit smaller and looks similar.

Skunks are small animals that don’t rely on their size and strength as badgers do. As such, they can get by being much smaller, usually 1-15 lbs on average. The largest species of skunk is the Eastern hog-nosed skunk, while the smallest species is the pygmy spotted skunk (although they are incredibly rare and live on Mexico’s western coast).

Badger Vs Skunk: Spray

Badger Vs Skunk

Badgers can secrete smelly fluid as a defense mechanism, but skunks can spray a longer-lasting fluid over 15 feet away.

©Geoffrey Kuchera/

As far as stinky animals go, badgers and skunks may be the worst. Badgers belong to the mustelid family and are known for their glandular secretions that are used to mark territory. In some species, however, badgers are able to utilize this secretion as a defense mechanism. If threatened, they will drop some of that secretion in an attempt to confuse and frighten the attacker. Although it doesn’t last as long as a skunk’s, it is known to be quite powerful. In fact, some research shows that the African honey badger has such a powerful anal smell that it will literally cause bees to become sluggish, allowing the badger to steal honey.

Skunks are quite famous for their stink, and for good reason. As one of the smelliest animals in the world, predators (and humans) know to stay away. Skunks can spray a special fluid from their stink glands up to 15 feet with stinky precision. At any given time, a skunk can shoot five times before running out of fluid. When you see a skunk raise its tail in the air and hop on its hind legs, it’s probably time to back away slowly. The odor is known to linger for weeks and even months.

Badger Vs Skunk: Tail

When it comes to appearance, the tail is an easy way to tell the difference. Badgers have short, stocky bodies with short, strong tails. A skunk, by comparison, is always fluffy and long since it is used as a warning to potential predators. If you see a skunk tail pop into the air, it’s time to head out!

Badger Vs Skunk: Color

Badger Vs Skunk

Badgers can be black, white, and brown, while most skunks are just black and white.

©Holly Kuchera/

Badgers come in a variety of colors and patterns, mostly depending on the species. The most common colors are black, white, and brown. The European badger is famous for its white and black striped head and all-black body, while the American badger is known for its black and white head, black back, and brown or tan underbellies. Honey badgers are generally black and white, but their coloration is quite distinct. They have a white “cap” and back with a hard switch into black halfway down towards their underside.

Skunks almost exclusively come in black and white and use their coloration as an added form of protection. Similar to how certain poisonous bugs and animals are brightly colored (meaning to STAY AWAY), a skunk’s coloration does the same. The patterns of black and white depend on the species. The two main fur patterns are stripes and spots, with the hog-nosed skunks having striped patterns and spotted skunks having a spotted pattern.

Badger Vs Skunk: Distribution

Badger Vs Skunk

Badgers live in North America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

©Michal Ninger/

Badgers are some of the most widespread mustelids across the world. Different species of badger exist in North America (American badger), Africa (honey badger), Europe (European badger), and Asia (Asian badger). Aside from these four common species, there are five other species that are relatively common as well. One interesting note, however, is the Sunda stink badger. Sunda stink badgers are called badgers, but they have the ability to spray a foul-smelling liquid up to 6 inches away. Today, they are actually classified as skunks in the Mephitidae family.

Skunks are only native to North and South America, with 12 total species (including the Sunda stink badger) split into four different Genera. At one point, skunks were classified alongside mustelids but have since been broken off into their own distinct family. Their closest relatives are raccoons and red pandas.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Jeremy Richards/

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About the Author

Colby is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering outdoors, unique animal stories, and science news. Colby has been writing about science news and animals for five years and holds a bachelor's degree from SEU. A resident of NYC, you can find him camping, exploring, and telling everyone about what birds he saw at his local birdfeeder.

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