| Badger ranges
The 11 species of badger are grouped in three subfamilies: Melinae (Eurasian badgers), Mellivorinae (the honey badger or ratel) and Taxideinae (the American badger). The Asiatic stink badgers of the genus Mydaus were formerly included within Melinae (and thus Mustelidae), but recent genetic evidence indicates these are actually members of the skunk family, placing them in the taxonomic family Mephitidae.
Badgers include the species in the genera Meles, Arctonyx, Taxidea and Mellivora. Their lower jaws are articulated to the upper by means of transverse condyles firmly locked into long cavities of the skull, so dislocation of the jaw is all but impossible. This enables the badgers to maintain their hold with the utmost tenacity, but limits jaw movement to hinging open and shut, or sliding from side to side without the twisting movement possible for the jaws of most mammals.
Badgers have rather short, fat bodies, with short legs for digging. They have elongated weasel-like heads with small ears. Their tails vary in length depending on species; the stink badger has a very short tail, while the ferret badger's tail can be 46–51 cm (18–20 in) long, depending on age. They have black faces with distinctive white markings, grey bodies with a light-coloured stripe from head to tail, and dark legs with light coloured underbellies. They grow to around 90 centimetres (35 in) in length including tail. The European badger is one of the largest; the American badger, the hog badger and the honey badger are generally a little smaller and lighter. The stink badgers are smaller still, and the ferret badgers are the smallest of all. They weigh around 9–11 kg (20–24 lb) on average, with some Eurasian badgers weighing in at around 18 kg (40 lb).
The word "badger", originally applied to the European badger (Meles meles), comes from earlier bageard (16th century), presumably referring to the white mark borne like a badge on its forehead. Similarly, a now archaic synonym was bauson ‘badger’ (1375), a variant of bausond ‘striped, piebald’, from Old French bausant, baucent ‘id.’.
The less common name brock (Old English: brocc), (Scots: brock) is a Celtic loanword (cf. Gaelic broc and Welsh broch, from Proto-Celtic *brokkos) meaning "grey". The Proto-Germanic term was *þahsuz (cf. German Dachs, Dutch das, Norwegian svintoks; Early Modern English dasse), probably from the PIE root *tek'- "to construct," so the badger would have been named after its digging of setts (tunnels); the Germanic term *þahsuz became taxus or taxō, -ōnis in Latin glosses, replacing mēlēs ("marten" or "badger"), and from these words the common Romance terms for the animal evolved (Italian tasso, French taisson — blaireau is now more common —, Catalan toixó, Spanish tejón, Portuguese texugo).
A male badger is a boar, a female is a sow, and a young badger is a cub. A collective name suggested for a group of badgers is a cete, but badger colonies are more often called clans. A badger's home is called a sett.
The following list shows where the various species with the common name of badger are placed in the Mustelidae classification. The list is polyphyletic and the species commonly called badgers do not, if the stink badgers are included, form a valid clade.
- Family Mustelidae
- Subfamily Melinae
- Genus Arctonyx
- Hog badger, Arctonyx collaris
- Genus Meles
- Genus Melogale [Some scientists assign this genus to the subfamily Helictidinae]
- Genus Arctonyx
- Subfamily Mellivorinae
- Honey badger or ratel, Mellivora capensis
- Subfamily Taxideinae:
- Subfamily Mustelinae
- Subfamily Melinae
- Family Mephitidae
Badgers are found in much of North America, Ireland, Great Britain and most of Europe as far as south Scandinavia. They live as far east as Japan and China. The Javan ferret-badger lives in Indonesia, and the Bornean ferret-badger lives in Malaysia. The honey badger is found in most of sub-Saharan Africa, the Arabian Desert, southern Levant, Turkmenistan, and India.
The behaviour of badgers differs by family, but all shelter underground, living in burrows called setts, which may be very extensive. Some are solitary, moving from home to home, while others are known to form clans called cetes. Cete size is variable from two to fifteen.
Badgers can run or gallop at 25–30 km/h (16–19 mph) for short periods of time.
Badgers are nocturnal.
In North America, coyotes sometimes eat badgers and vice versa, but the majority of their interactions seem to be mutual or neutral. American badgers and coyotes have been seen hunting together in a cooperative fashion.
The diet of the Eurasian badger consists largely of earthworms (especially Lumbricus terrestris), insects, grubs, and the eggs and young of ground-nesting birds. They also eat small mammals, amphibians, reptiles and birds, as well as roots and fruit. In Britain, they are the main predator of hedgehogs, which have demonstrably lower populations in areas where badgers are numerous, so that hedgehog rescue societies will not release hedgehogs into known badger territories. In some areas they are known to predate lambs, and may bite a ewe defending her lamb, almost always leading to infection of the bite. They are occasional predators of domestic chickens, and are able to break into enclosures that a fox cannot. In southern Spain, badgers feed to a significant degree on rabbits.
Badgers have been known to become intoxicated with alcohol after eating rotting fruit.
Relation with humans
Hunting badgers for sport has been common in many countries. The Dachshund (German for "badger hound") dog breed was bred for the purpose. Badger-baiting was formerly a popular blood sport. Although badgers are normally quite docile, they fight fiercely when cornered. This led people to capture and box badgers and then wager on whether a dog could succeed in removing the badger from its refuge. In England, opposition from naturalists and moral crusaders led to its ban under the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1835 and the Protection of Badgers Act of 1992 made it an offence to kill, injure, or take a badger or to interfere with a sett unless under license from a statutory authority. The Hunting Act of 2004 further banned fox hunters from blocking setts during their chases.
Badgers have been trapped commercially for their pelts, which have been used for centuries to make shaving brushes, a purpose to which it is particularly suited owing to its high water retention. Virtually all commercially available badger hair now comes from mainland China, though, which has farms for the purpose. The Chinese supply three grades of hair to domestic and foreign brush makers. Village cooperatives are also licensed by the national government to hunt and process badgers to avoid their becoming a crop nuisance in rural northern China. The European badger is also used as trim for some traditional Scottish clothing. The American badger is also used for paintbrushes and as trim for some Native American garments. It has also been occasionally used for doll hair.
Controlling the badger population is prohibited in many European countries, as badgers are listed in the Berne Convention, but they are not otherwise the subject of any international treaty or legislation. Many badgers in Europe were gassed during the 1960s and 1970s to control rabies.
Until the 1980s, badger culling in the United Kingdom was undertaken in the form of gassing, to control the spread of bovine tuberculosis (bTB). Limited culling resumed in 1998 as part of a 10-year randomised trial cull which was considered by John Krebs and others to show that culling was ineffective. Some groups called for a selective cull, while others favoured a programme of vaccination. Wales and Northern Ireland are currently (2013) conducting field trials of a badger vaccination programme. In 2012, the government authorised a limited cull led by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, however, this was later deferred with a wide range of reasons given. In August 2013, a full culling programme began where it is expected about 5,000 badgers will be killed over six weeks in West Somerset and Gloucestershire using a mixture of controlled shooting and free shooting (some badgers will be trapped in cages first). The cull has caused many protests with emotional, economic and scientific reasons being cited. The badger is considered an iconic species of the British countryside, it has been claimed by shadow ministers that "The government's own figures show it will cost more than it saves...", and Lord Krebs, who led the Randomised Badger Culling Trial in the 1990s, said the two pilots "will not yield any useful information".
Although rarely eaten today in the United States or the United Kingdom, badgers were once a primary meat source for the diets of Native Americans and white colonists. Badgers were also eaten in Britain during World War II and the 1950s. In Russia, the consumption of badger meat is still widespread. Shish kebabs made from badger, along with dog meat and pork, are a major source of trichinosis outbreaks in the Altai region of Russia. In Croatia, badger meat is rarely eaten. When it is, it is usually smoked and dried or, less commonly, served in goulash. In France, badger meat was used in the preparation of several dishes, such as Blaireau au sang, and it was a relatively common ingredient in countryside cuisine. Badger meat was eaten in some parts of Spain until recently. In Japan, badger is regarded in folktales as a food for the humble.
In medieval times, badgers were thought to work together to dig holes under mountains. They were said to lie down at the entrance of the hole holding a stick in their mouths, while other badgers piled dirt on their bellies. Two badgers would then take hold of the stick in the badger’s mouth, and drag the animal loaded with dirt away, almost in the fashion of a wagon.
The 19th century poem "The Badger" by John Clare describes a badger hunt and badger-baiting. In Lafcadio Hearn's book Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things (1903), later to be the basis of a 1964 film, there is a short story titled Mujina, which is a shapeshifting badger. The character Frances in Russell Hoban's children's books, beginning with Bedtime for Frances (1948–1970), is depicted as a badger. Trufflehunter is a heroic badger in the Chronicles of Narnia book Prince Caspian (1951) by C. S. Lewis.
Badger characters are featured in author Brian Jacques' Redwall series (1986–2011), most often falling under the title of Badger Lord or Badger Mother. A badger god is featured in The Immortals (1992–1996) by Tamora Pierce and "The Badger" is a comic book hero created by Mike Baron. The badger is the emblem of the Hufflepuff house of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter book series (1997–2007), it is chosen as such because the badger is an animal that is often underestimated, because it lives quietly until attacked, but which, when provoked, can fight off animals much larger than itself, which resembles the Hufflepuff house in several ways.
Many other stories featuring badgers as characters include Kenneth Grahame's children's novel The Wind in the Willows (1908), Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Mr. Tod (1912; featuring badger Tommy Brock), the Rupert Bear adventures by Mary Tourtel (appearing since 1920), T. H. White's Arthurian fantasy novels The Once and Future King (1958, written 1938–41) and The Book of Merlyn (1977), Fantastic Mr. Fox (1970) by Roald Dahl, Richard Adams's Watership Down (1972), Colin Dann's The Animals of Farthing Wood (1979), and Erin Hunter's Warriors (appearing since 2003). In the historic novel Incident at Hawk's Hill (1971) by Allan W. Eckert a badger is one of the main characters.
Badgers are also featured in films and animations: a flash video of "The Badger Song" shows a group doing calisthenics; in Pokémon, Typhlosion and Linoone are based on badgers. Walt Disney's 1973 film Robin Hood, depicts the character of Friar Tuck as a badger. In the Doctor Snuggles series, Dennis the handyman, was a badger.
In Europe, badgers were traditionally used to predict the length of winter. The badger is the state animal of the US state of Wisconsin and Bucky Badger is the mascot of the athletic teams at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The badger is also the official mascot of Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, as well as that of St Aidan's College at the University of Durham.
In 2007, the appearance of honey badgers around the British base at Basra, Iraq, fuelled rumours among the locals that British forces deliberately released "man-eating" and "bear-like" badgers to spread panic. These allegations were denied by the British army and the director of Basra's veterinary hospital.
The viral video Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger became popular in 2011, attaining over 68 million views on YouTube as of July 2014. The video features footage from the Nat Geo WILD network of honey badgers fighting jackals, invading beehives, and eating cobras, with a voiceover added by the uploader, "Randall".
- Goswami, Anjali & Friscia, Anthony (2010). Carnivoran Evolution: New Views on Phylogeny, Form and Function. Cambridge University Press. p. 30. ISBN 978-0-521-73586-5.
- "Badger Pages: Photos of and facts about the badgers of the world". Badgers.org.uk. Archived from the original on 5 February 2012. Retrieved 31 December 2011.
- C. T. Onions, ed., The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1966), 68.
- Weiner, E. S. C.; Simpson, J. R. (1989). The Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-861186-2. Retrieved 30 August 2008.
- The American Heritage Dictionary, 4th edn., s.v. "badger" (Houghton Mifflin, 2001).
- Ernout, Alfred; Meillet, Antoine (1979) . Dictionnaire étimologique de la langue latine (in French) (4 ed.). Paris: Klincksieck.
- Devoto, Giacomo (1989) . Avviamento all'etimologia italiana (in Italian) (6 ed.). Milano: Mondadori.
- Hints and Things: collective nouns Retrieved 28 June 2010.
- Koepfli KP, Deere KA, Slater GJ, Begg C, Begg K, Grassman L, Lucherini M, Veron G, Wayne RK (February 2008). "Multigene phylogeny of the Mustelidae: Resolving relationships, tempo and biogeographic history of a mammalian adaptive radiation". BMC Biology. 6: 10. doi:10.1186/1741-7007-6-10. PMC 2276185. PMID 18275614.
- Yu L, Peng D, Liu J, Luan P, Liang L, Lee H, Lee M, Ryder OA, Zhang Y (2011). "On the phylogeny of Mustelidae subfamilies: analysis of seventeen nuclear non-coding loci and mitochondrial complete genomes". BMC Evol Biol. 11 (1): 92. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-11-92.
- Sleeman, D.P.; Davenport, J.; Cussen. R.E. & Hammond, R.F. (2009). "The small-bodied badgers (Meles meles (L.) of Rutland Island, Co. Donegal". Irish Naturalists' Journal. 30: 1–6. JSTOR 20764515.
- Brink van den, F.H. (1967). A Field Guide to the Mammals of Britain and Europe. Collins, London.
- Duckworth, J.W. & Brickle, N.W. (2008). "Melogale orientalis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2008. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 21 March 2009. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of data deficient
- Duckworth, J.W. & Azlan, J. (2008). "Melogale everetti". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2008. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 21 March 2009. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of data deficient.
- Begg, K., Begg, C. & Abramov, A. (2008). "Mellivora capensis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2008. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 21 March 2009.
- "Badger". Kansas University. Ksr.ku.edu. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
- Kiliaan HP, Mamo C, Paquet PC (1991). "A Coyote, Canis latrans, and Badger, Taxidea taxus, interaction near Cypress Hills Provincial Park, Alberta". Canadian Field Naturalist. 105: 122–12.
- Cahalane VH (1950). "Badger-coyote "partnerships"". Journal of Mammalogy. 31: 354–355. doi:10.1093/jmammal/31.3.354-a.
- An Analysis of Eurasian Badger (Meles meles) Population Dynamics: Implications for Regulatory Mechanisms
- "Eurasian badger (Meles meles) ecology: DIET". Woodchester Park Badger Research. Central Science Laboratory. csl.gov.uk. Archived from the original on 28 March 2010. Retrieved 30 August 2008.
- "The value of agri-environment schemes for macro-invertebrate feeders: hedgehogs on arable farms in Britain" (PDF). Animal Conservation. 13: 467–473. doi:10.1111/j.1469-1795.2010.00359.x. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 April 2014.
Badger predation of hedgehogs was high in the study site and the main cause of death
- "badgers and hogs don't mix we'd never consider releasing hogs into ... an active badger territory". Snufflelodge.org.uk. Retrieved 27 August 2013.
- "Forums". River Cottage. Retrieved 27 August 2013.
- Fedriani, J.M.; Ferreras, P. & Delibes, M. (1998). "Dietary response of the Eurasian badger, Meles meles, to a decline of its main prey in the Doñana National Park". Journal of Zoology. 245 (2): 214–218. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.1998.tb00092.x.
- AFP: Drunk badger blocks German road. Google.com (8 July 2009). Retrieved on 7 November 2011.
- EB (1878).
- EB (1911).
- UK Government. "Protection of Badgers Act 1992". Retrieved October 7, 2015.
- "Bristle Styles and Additional Information". Em's Place. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
- "ADW: Taxidea taxus: Information". Animal Diversity Web. Archived from the original on 23 September 2008. Retrieved 30 August 2008.
- The European badger (Meles meles). badger.org.uk
- Badger cull is necessary to stop them suffering, say vets. The Times (27 April 2013). Retrieved on 2 September 2013.
- "Badger cull begins in Somerset in attempt to tackle TB". BBC. 2013. Retrieved 30 August 2013.
- Carrington, D. (14 December 2011). "Badger culling will go ahead in 2012". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 August 2013.
- Carrington, D. (23 October 2012). "Badger cull postponed until 2013". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 August 2013.
- "Wonderland: The Man Who Eats Badgers and Other Strange Tales – TV pick of the day for January 23rd, 2008". Library.digiguide.com. Archived from the original on 12 April 2009. Retrieved 25 April 2009.
- "Primary Source documents". Bcheritage.ca. Retrieved 25 April 2009.
- "How To Bake A Badger". Globalchefs.com. Archived from the original on 15 July 2007. Retrieved 7 June 2010.
- "Summary of Trichinellosis Outbreaks (2001–2004)". Trichinella.org. Retrieved 25 April 2009.
- "MESO: The first Croatian meat journal, Vol.VII No.1 February 2005". Hrcak. 1 February 2005. Retrieved 25 April 2009.
- Florijančić, Tihomir; Marinculić, Albert; Antunović, Boris & Bošković, Ivica (2006). "A survey of the current status of sylvatic trichinellosis in the Republic of Croatia" (PDF). Veterinarski Arhiv. 76 (7): S1–S8.
- "Summary of Trichinellosis Outbreaks (2001–2005) – Russia". www.trichinella.org. Retrieved 11 October 2008.
- "Sweet delicacy from hunter's kitchen – badger (Melles melles L.) Abstract". Portal of scientific journals of Croatia. Retrieved 11 October 2008.
- Molinier, Annie; Molinier, Jean-Claude; d'Hauterives, Benoît Lumeau. (2004). Les cuisines oubliées. Illinois: Editions Sud Ouest. ISBN 978-2-87901-549-1.
- "Badgers in Spain". IberiaNature. Archived from the original on 4 December 2008. Retrieved 25 November 2008.
- Radin, Paul (1946). "Folktales of Japan as Told in California". The Journal of American Folklore. 59 (233): 289–308. doi:10.2307/536252. JSTOR 536252.
- Hubbard, Fran (1985). Animal Friends of the Southwest. USA: Awani Press. p. 29. ISBN 0-915266-07-5.
- "Protection of Badgers Act 1992, Section 4". legislation.gov.uk. 29 June 2011. Retrieved 9 May 2016.
- "Medieval Bestiary : Badger". bestiary.ca.
- Yoder, Don (2003) Groundhog Day. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books. ISBN 0-8117-0029-1
- EEK! – Critter Corner – The Badger. Dnr.wi.gov. Retrieved on 7 November 2011.
- "British blamed for Basra badgers". BBC News. 12 July 2007. Archived from the original on 8 August 2007. Retrieved 12 July 2007.
- Ellison, Cara (26 July 2013). "Hands On: Shelter". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved 3 September 2013.
- "Badger", Encyclopædia Britannica, 9th ed., Vol. III, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1878, p. 227.
- "Badger", Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th ed., Vol. III, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1911, p. 188.
|Wikispecies has information related to: melinae|
- Badgerland – The Definitive On-Line Guide to Badgers in the UK
- Durham County Badger Group
- WildlifeOnline – Natural History of Badgers
- Badger Facts
- www.ontariobadgers.org – Information about American Badgers
- Local dutch badger group
- Badger-Coyote Associations
- YouTube video of examples of Badger scratching trees
- Texts on Wikisource: