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12 Types of Badgers: Species, Facts, and Photos

Badgers are recognized for their flat bodies and strong claws, which make them ideally suited to dig the extensive tunnel systems they are known for. Due to convergent evolution, they display remarkable diversity. Curious to learn more about these different types of badgers? Join us as we explore the distinctive attributes and behaviors of the various badger species that inhabit regions across the globe.

Badger Classification

Badgers are a polyphyletic group under the Caniform suborder of carnivoran mammals. They are characterized mainly by their stout bodies and digging behaviors. Their taxonomic grouping is polyphyletic, a product of convergent evolution, where unrelated organisms evolve similar features or adaptations. 

This article discusses all animals named badgers, most of which belong to the Mustelidae family, and two stink badgers from the Mephitidae family. 

Mustelidae hosts various genera, including Meles (Eurasian badgers), which comprises four species; Taxidiinae and Mellivorinae, which each have one extant species; and Melogale (Ferret-badgers), which houses six species.

Read more: Badger Facts.

12 Types of Badgers

1. European Badger (Meles meles)

 European Badger
Photo by caroline legg on Flickr licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Cropped from original).

The European or Eurasian Badger is a nocturnal mammal with a robust body and short but powerful legs. Its face features black and white stripes. 

They live in diverse terrains of Europe, where they build complex underground dens known as 'setts.' Badgers hand down these burrows from one generation to the next. Moreover, they are social creatures and form groups, or 'clans,' that house up to fifteen members. 

Eurasian badgers eat earthworms, insects, small mammals, fruits, and roots, using their acute sense of smell to find food and detect danger. Mating can occur at any time of the year. Still, most cubs are born in February due to delayed implantation, wherein female badgers don’t implant the fertilized egg in the uterus until several months after mating.

Badger-baiting, a former bloodsport involving badger dog attacks, was banned in the UK by two Acts in 1835 and 1911. Moreover, the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 makes badger cruelty and killing illegal, with penalties, including imprisonment or fines.

2. Asian Badger (Meles leucurus)

Asian Badger
Photo by Гурьева Светлана (zooclub.ru) on Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain).

Asian badgers in Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, China, and Korea inhabit high-elevation areas up to 13,000 feet, such as the Ural and Tian Shan mountains and the Tibetan Plateau. Their habitats include open deciduous woodlands, mixed forests, scrub, steppe, and sometimes suburban areas.

Asian badgers have lighter coats and are smaller than European badgers. However, they still have similar impressive digging skills and can construct complex burrow systems. 

These nocturnal creatures emerge from their burrows to hunt small mammals, birds, insects, fruits, and plant roots. Moreover, the Asian Badger is essential in managing rodent and insect populations.

3. Japanese Badger (Meles anakuma)

 Japanese Badger
Photo by Nzrst1jx on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (Cropped from original).

The Japanese Badger, endemic to the land of the rising sun, is smaller than its European counterparts. It also has short grayish-brown fur and broad feet with long claws. 

The solitary animals feed on earthworms, insects, small mammals, amphibians, berries, and plant roots. They mating season occurs during the summer and produce one or two cubs in the spring. 

4. American Badger (Taxidea taxus)

American Badger
Photo by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (Cropped from original).

The American Badger is a mammal native to North America. It inhabits prairies and forests across the United States, Canada, and northern Mexico. 

Although it looks similar to European badgers, they are unrelated. It is also the most basal or the oldest species among the members of the Mustelidae family. Its genetic line is believed to have diverged from other mustelids around 18 million years ago1.

To distinguish these types of badgers, look out for their long foreclaws and distinct head markings. Their fur, a blend of brown, black, and white, effectively serves as grassland camouflage. Triangular faces adorned with blackish-brown "badges" on the cheeks and a white stripe from the nose to the head base further distinguish them.

Moreover, American Badgers are primarily active at night, feeding on small mammals, birds, insects, and reptiles. Their digging habits help control rodent populations and aerate the soil. Interestingly, there are reports of American Badgers and coyotes hunting together.

5. Honey Badger (Mellivora capensis)

Honey Badger
Photo by Sumeet Moghe on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (Cropped from original).

The Honey Badger, also known as Ratel, is a mammal found in Africa, Southwest Asia, and the Indian subcontinent. 

These badgers showcase a sturdy frame, highlighted by a broad back and loose skin. Their tiny heads carry small eyes and ears, finished with a short muzzle. Notably, strong claws ornament their short, robust legs—the forelimbs' claws are longer and perfect for digging. 

Their black lower body and sides of the head sharply contrast the white band of the upper body. One subspecies is entirely black. 

Interestingly, honey badgers evolved two pairs of mammary glands for the usual twins they produce. Unlike other mustelids, they also have anal pouches, which can turn inside out. 

Contrary to popular belief, the Greater Honeyguide bird does not guide Honey Badgers in locating bee hives2.

6. Chinese Ferret-badger (Melogale moschata)

 Chinese Ferret-badger
Photo by Николай Усик on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (Cropped from original).

The Chinese Ferret-badger, or Small-toothed Ferret-badger, is a creature native to East Asia. It lives in forests, grasslands, and even human settlements in rural areas. It has a dark grey fur coat, a white stripe from the forehead to the back of the head, and an elongated body. 

They are primarily burrow dwellers and forage at night for food, such as insects, small mammals, birds, and fruits. Moreover, they scavenge through human trash. 

Unlike their badger relatives, Chinese Ferret-badgers are highly social and communicate with their kind using a range of vocalizations such as whistles, churrs, and chuckles. They also climb with agility, a skill they use to escape predators or reach food.

7. Bornean Ferret-badger (Melogale everetti)

Endemic to the island of Borneo, the Bornean Ferret-badger lives in evergreen and montane forests. It is also called the Everett's ferret badger after the British zoological collector Alfred Hart Everett.

The Bornean Ferret-badger sports a coat varying from gray-brown to dark black, its underside a lighter shade. Its most defining feature is its distinctive "ferret-like mask" facial marking, either white or yellow. 

Distinguished from other ferret badgers by a dorsal stripe from head to shoulders, this species demonstrates climbing adaptations, such as foot ridges and partial toe webbing.

It becomes active at night to feed on invertebrates, insects, fruits, and carrion. This solitary animal also defends its territory fiercely. When threatened, it releases a strong-smelling secretion from its anal glands that deters any potential predator. 

Recently categorized as endangered, the Bornean Ferret-badger faces threats tied to its small habitat range4. Vulnerable to unpredictable events like epidemics or natural catastrophes, its survival is further jeopardized by the potential negative impacts of climate change since an upslope range shift is impossible for this species.

8. Javan Ferret-badger (Melogale orientalis)

Javan Ferret-badger
Illustration from Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain).

The Javan Ferret-badger lives only in the forests of Java and Bali, Indonesia. It has a tri-colored coat of black, white, and brown and a white marking that runs from its head down its back. 

Despite the degradation of Java's primary forest, this ferret-badger demonstrates adaptability due to sightings in secondary forests and plantations.

It leads a subterranean lifestyle, occupying pre-existing burrows and emerging primarily at night. Its mainly carnivorous diet includes small animals, birds, amphibians, carrion, eggs, and invertebrates, supplemented occasionally with fruit. 

9. Burmese Ferret-badger (Melogale personata)

The Burmese Ferret-badger, or Large-toothed Ferret-badger, inhabits Southeast Asia, including Myanmar, India, Thailand, and Vietnam. It can live in dry forests, lush grasslands, and high-altitude forests. 

This type of badger has a light to dark brown coat, white facial markings, a long and low body, short legs, and prominent canine teeth. It rests in burrows during the day and comes out to forage for small mammals, insects, fruits, and roots at night.

10. Greater Hog Badger (Arctonyx collaris)

Greater Hog Badger
Photo by Rushenb on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (Cropped from original).

The Greater Hog Badger is among the larger species, with adults weighing about 31 pounds. As its name suggests, this type of badger has a pig-like snout, a valuable tool for finding food in the soil. It is also distinguishable by its brown fur, two black stripes on the snout, and white throat.

The Greater Hog Badger's territory spans from Bangladesh, Northeast India, Myanmar, and Thailand all the way to Vietnam and Cambodia. It thrives in diverse habitats, including dense forests, open countrysides, and grassland-dominated floodplains.

Active day and night, this omnivore feeds on various food sources, from plants to worms to small mammals. Its pig-like snout allows it to effectively find and dig up food, favoring earthworms.

Unfortunately, the Greater Hog Badger is listed as Vulnerable due to heavy hunting leading to population decline3. The animal is consumed for its meat and sometimes for medicinal purposes. Hunting is frequent, although most catches are likely opportunistic and non-targeted.

11. Indonesian Stink Badger (Mydaus javanensis)

The Indonesian Stink Badger is a nocturnal animal found in Indonesia and Malaysia's lush forests and rolling hills. It is also known as the Sunda stink badger, Javan stink badger, Sunda skunk, or locally as Teledu.

It has short, muscular legs, a short tail, and coarse fur that is either black or dark brown with a white stripe along the body. Moreover, it has a snout and claws designed to search for worms and insects on the ground.

Since they are not true badgers but are related to skunks, also part of the Mephitidae family, these creatures can accurately emit a potent, unpleasant, milky green secretion from their scent glands.

12. Palawan Stink Badger (Mydaus marchei)

Palawan Stink Badger
Illustration by G. Huet on Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain).

The Palawan Stink Badger is endemic to the island of Palawan in the Philippines, primarily inhabiting grasslands. Slightly smaller than Indonesian stink badgers, it features dark brown to black fur on its body, with a lighter hue underneath. It has sporadic white hairs on its back and forehead. Moreover, its fur is longer, and its teeth are larger.

Palawan stink badgers are skilled nocturnal diggers that primarily eat invertebrates extracted from the ground with their sharp claws. They reside in self-dug dens during the day. They also spray a potent yellowish fluid from anal scent glands up to three feet when threatened5.

Types of Badgers FAQs

1. How many species of badgers are there? 

Fifteen true badgers belong to the Mustelidae family. The two stink badgers in the Mephitidae family only bear the name of badgers but are actually closely related to skunks.

2. Where do badgers live?

You can find badgers in various nooks and crannies of the world - from high mountains to dry deserts and dense forests.

3. How can we differentiate between badger species?

Their coloration, claws, markings, and feeding habits can tell their species apart. Each one has its own style.

4. Are badgers dangerous?

Badgers are dangerous only if cornered or threatened. They aren’t the brawling type and prefer to keep to themselves. Remember to keep your distance since they are still wild animals.

5. Which badger species are most at risk?

The Greater hog badger and the Bornean ferret-badger have the IUCN endangered and vulnerable status, respectively.

1

Law, C. J., Slater, G. J., & Mehta, R. S. (2017). Lineage Diversity and size Disparity in Musteloidea: Testing patterns of adaptive radiation using Molecular and Fossil-Based methods. Systematic Biology, 67(1), 127–144.

2

Dean, W. R. J., Siegfried, W. R., & Macdonald, I. a. W. (1990). The fallacy, fact, and fate of guiding behavior in the Greater Honeyguide. Conservation Biology, 4(1), 99–101.

3

Duckworth, J.W., Timmins, R., Chutipong, W., Gray, T.N.E., Long, B., Helgen, K., Rahman, H., Choudhury, A. & Willcox, D.H.A. (2016). Arctonyx collaris. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T70205537A45209459. 

4

Wilting, A., Duckworth, J.W., Hearn, A. & Ross, J. (2015). Melogale everetti. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T13110A45199541. 

5

The Palawan Stink Badger. (1976). Oryx, 13(3), 297.

By Mike Gomez, BA.

Mike is a degree-qualified researcher and writer passionate about increasing global awareness about climate change and encouraging people to act collectively in resolving these issues.

Fact Checked By:
Isabela Sedano, BEng.

Photo by Hans Veth on Unsplash.
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