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Badger is the common name for any animal of three subfamilies, which belong to the family Mustelidae: the same mammal family as the ferrets, the weasels, the otters, and several other types of carnivore. There are 8 species of badger, in three subfamilies: Melinae (the Eurasian badgers), Mellivorinae, (the Ratel or honey badger), and Taxideinae (the American badger). The Asiatic stink badgers of the genus Mydaus were formerly included in the Melinae, but recent genetic evidence indicates that these are actually Old World relatives of the skunks (family Mephitidae).
Typical badgers (Meles, Arctonyx, Taxidea and Mellivora species) are short-legged and heavy-set. The lower jaw is articulated to the upper, by means of a transverse condyle firmly locked into a long cavity of the cranium, so that dislocation of the jaw is all but impossible. This enables the badger to maintain its hold with the utmost tenacity.
Badgers are the largest indigenous carnivores in the United Kingdom. They are known to grow to two metres in length, but never more than 50 cm tall.
The name badger is possibly derived from the word badge, on account of the marks on the head; or it may be identical with the term noted below, the French blaireau being used in both senses. An older term for "badger" is brock (Old English brocc), a Celtic loanword (Gaelic broc, Welsh broch, from Proto-Celtic *brokko). The Proto-Germanic term was *þahsu- (German Dachs), likely from the PIE root *tek'- "to construct", so that the badger would have been named after its digging of setts (tunnels).
The collective name for a group of badgers is a cete.
Badger is the common name for any animal of three subfamilies, which belong to the family Mustelidae: the same mammal family as the ferrets, the weasels, the otters, and several other types of carnivore.
- Family Mustelidae
- Subfamily Lutrinae: otters
- Subfamily Melinae
- Hog Badger, Arctonyx collaris
- Burmese Ferret Badger, Melogale personata
- Oriental Ferret Badger, Melogale orientalis
- Chinese Ferret Badger, Melogale moschata
- Everett's Ferret Badger, Melogale everetti
- Eurasian Badger, Meles meles
- Subfamily Mellivorinae
- Ratel or Honey Badger, Mellivora capensis
- Subfamily Taxideinae:
- American Badger, Taxidea taxus
- Subfamily Mustelinae: weasels, martens, polecats and allies
- 'Family Mephitidae
- Indonesian or Javan Stink Badger (Teledu), Mydaus javanensis
- Palawan Stink Badger, Mydaus marchei
Lifestyle and diet
The behavior of badgers differ based on family. Some are solitary, moving from home to home, while others are known to form clans of up to 15.
The badger diet also varies. The Eurasian species eat anything from fruit and nuts to insects, birds and lizards. The American Badger tends to prey on small mammals, including stoats, voles and marmots; in a pinch, it has also been known to eat woodpeckers. The Honey Badger consumes honey, porcupines and even venomous snakes (such as the puff adder), among others.
Badgers and humans
Badgers are listed in Appendix III of the Berne Convention, but are not otherwise the subject of any international treaty or legislation. Badgers are hunted in many countries, either as a perceived pest, or for sport. Many badger setts in Europe were gassed during the 1960s and 1970s to control rabies. Gassing was also practised in the UK until the 1980s to control the spread of bovine TB. Badgers are protected in the UK by the Protection of Badgers Act 1992. (An exemption allowing fox hunters to loosely block setts to prevent chased foxes escaping into them was brought to an end with the passage of the Hunting Act 2004). Badgers may not be killed, nor their setts interfered with, except on licence from the government, with an exception permitting the killing of badgers in the attempt to eradicate bovine tuberculosis.
- See Eurasian badger for more details about badgers and bovine tuberculosis.
Badger digging is the process of digging a badger out of its sett. Badger baiting dog breeds are used to locate the badger in the tunnel, after which the diggers attempt to dig down to the badger. If the badger tries to dig to escape, the dog will attack. Sometimes radio transmitters are attached to the dog to help in its location.
Badger-baiting is a blood sport involving the baiting of badgers. The badger does not usually seek to attack, but, when driven to bay, its great muscular power and tough hide render it a formidable opponent. Consequently the animals were used in the pseudo-sport of badger-baiting. Weighing up to thirty-five pounds when fully grown, badgers have an extraordinarily dangerous bite, which they are willing to use recklessly when threatened. Showing itself to be a dangerous adversary for any dog made it a sought after participant for the fighting pit. In order to use the badger's ability to defend itself to test the dog, artificial badger dens were built, captured badgers were put in them and then the dog was set on the badger. The badger would be placed in a box, which was furnished in imitation of its den and from there a tunnel led upward. The owner of the badger puts his animal in the box. The timekeeper is equipped with a watch and the badger's owner releases the dog for the fight. Whoever wants to pit his dog against the badger let it slide into the tunnel. Usually the dog is seized immediately by the badger and the dog in turn grips the badger. Each bites, tears and pulls the other with all their might. The owner quickly pulls out the dog whose jaws are clamped obstinately onto the badger by its tail. The two are separated and the badger is returned to its den. Then the dog is sent back into seize the badger and it again drawn out with the badger. This scene is repeated over and over again. The more often a dog is able to seize the badger within a minute, so that both can be pulled out together, the more it is up to the task and is considered game.
Teastas Mor is a certificate of gameness issued to a dog by the Irish Kennel Club. It was considered that the discipline ensured contests between dog and badger were fair. In the past, to become an Irish Kennel Club terrier champion, it was necessary for a terrier to be in possession of a Teastas Mor. These continued until the kennel ceased to license trials in 1968.
The dachshund dog breed has a history with badgers; "dachs" is the German word for badgers, and dachshunds were originally bred to be badger hounds.
Badgers are popular in English language fiction. Many badger characters are featured in author Brian Jacques' Redwall series, most often falling under the title of Badger Lord or Badger Mother. One such badger contains 'Brock' in his name. Other stories featuring badgers include The Boy Who Talked to Badgers (1975 movie), The Tale of Mr. Tod, The Wind in the Willows, The Once and Future King, The Animals of Farthing Wood, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Book of Merlyn, and The Chronicles of Narnia. In the Harry Potter series, one of the four Houses, Hufflepuff, is symbolized by a badger. The character Frances in Russell Hoban's series of children's books is a badger. They also appear prominently in two volumes of Erin Hunter's Warriors: The New Prophecy series.
The US State of Wisconsin is known as the "Badger State," and the mascot of the University of Wisconsin is the badger.
Brock University of St.Catharines, Ontario have the badgers as thier mascot.
- The Badger Trust (formerly the National Federation of Badger Groups)
- Badgerland - The Definitive On-Line Guide to Badgers (Meles meles) in the UK
- Steve Jackson's Badger Pages
- The Virtual Badger Sett (Taxidea, North American Badgers)
- Badgers in Spain
- Official Athletic Department Site for the University of Wisconsin "Badgers"
- Aigas Field Centre badger ecology page
- Badger Badger Badger