Honey Badgers

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Species: M. capensis

Conservation Status

Range and Population

No total population estimates. Considered rare or to occur at low densities (Begg et al. 2013)


Africa, Arabian Peninsula, Asia and India


Approximately 24 years.


Male: 9 – 16 kg (Adult), Female: 5 – 10 kg (Adult)


  • Honey Badgers are also known as ratels and belong to mustelids (the same family as otters and weasels)
  • They are native to Africa, India, and Southwest Asia.
  • They’re about 1m long (including tail). In Africa males weigh about 10 to 15 Kg, while females usually stay in the 5 to 10 Kg. But in some parts of Asia (like Iraq) they get much bigger, with some females reaching 18 kg.
  • They are one of the most successful predators in the environment because of their thick skin and adaptability.
  • They live in burrows, rock crevices, or any place with a shelter.
  • Despite their name they’re anatomically closer to weasels than to other badgers. They’re basically weasels on steroids.
  • Since their range is so extensive and their ecosystems so varied, honey badgers look slightly different depending on their location. There are 12 recognized subspecies.



  • Honey Badgers are short and stocky, and have several adaptations for fighting like their skin is extremely loose which lets the animal still move even if the prey/predator is biting its fur.
  • Their neck is reinforced mostly for ratel-on-ratel fighting and bee stings, porcupine quills, arrows, and bites from bigger predators don’t usually pierce their skin.
  • The sensitive or vulnerable areas such as eyes, ears, and tail are very small, so they’re not as exposed.
  • Their bite is strong enough to crack open a small tortoise.
  • Honey badgers bear cubs throughout the year after a gestation period of 6 to 8 weeks. A single baby is born, but more than half of them die before reaching maturity. The cubs are dependent on their mom for food for up to 16 months.


  • Honey Badgers are solitary animals but might spend some time with a mate during mating season.
  • Outside of mating season, most encounters between Honey Badgers are uncommon, unwelcomed, and violent.
    • But since they don’t like seeing each other, they have evolved a sophisticated system of chemical communication. They leave urine, feces, and skin secretions in conspicuous places for others to find.
    • They also have anal glands that secrete a musky substance, which is a sign of aggression, fear, and threat.
  • They’re one of the mammals to use tools. In this video you can see it rolling a log to make a step stool to reach the bird’s nest.
  • A study in South Africa found that Honey Badgers have a very diverse diet. They eat at least 59 species! Right from bee larvae to 3 metre long pythons.
    • Most of their prey is dug out but gerbils, lizards, geckos, and snakes make up a lot of their diet.
    • Interestingly, they also climb trees just like Goshawks, to eat raptor chickens.
    • Other animals like the adult Goshawks and Jackals benefit from the Honey Badger. When a Badger is on the prowl they wait until the prey is flushed out of their burrows and catch hold of them before the Honey Badgers can get to them.
      • Also, Honey Badgers are too slow to do anything about it.
      • But nature plays an interesting game here, young Goshawks and Jackals fall prey to adult Honey Badgers.
  • They’re not really afraid of humans and they like eating chickens and other livestock.
    • They also have a tendency of surplus killing, which means they’ll kill as many animals as they can, regardless of how many they can actually eat. So now you know the problem for chicken farmers!
    • Along with that, they’re also very smart and strong. They can easily get into enclosures and coops.
  • Honey Badgers are amazing diggers, but their burrows are usually just about three meters long. They sometimes even use Aardvark or Ground hog burrows.
    • They can also dig a hole big enough for them to hide in just minutes!

Fun Facts

  • Honey Badgers have a reversible anal pouch. That means it can be pushed out of the anus. It smells so bad that it is believed they use it to tranquilize bees when they’re looking for honey.
    • Badgers are relatives of the skunks. They have a similar anal pouch. The only difference being Honey Badgers unable to shoot secretions.
  • Historically, the Honey Badger has been believed to have a mutualistic relationship with a small bird, the Honey Guide.
    • The birds are really good in finding bee nests, but can’t break into them.
      • So according to the myth the birds call Honey Badgers with a distinctive song and wait until it breaks breaks open the nest.
      • Once the Honey Badger has had its fill, the birds feast on larval bees and wax.
      • Here is a clip that shows an amazing partnership between the Honey Guide and the Honey Badger. 
      • But there’s no actual evidence of this happening. It’s all hearsay and old folklore. The bird does however have a mutualistic relationship with humans.
        • The Honey Badger is mostly nocturnal and the honeyguide is diurnal.
        • The badger also doesn’t have great vision or hearing, so that would be a bad choice for the bird to lead it to the beehive.
        • Also, there have been studies where they play the honey guide song next to a beehive in the presence of a honey badger. The honey badger doesn’t react. 
        • The video is now believed to be a tamed badger and a stuffed bird.
    • Their body parts (particularly paws, skin, fat and organs) are commonly used in traditional medicine because of their reputation for fearlessness and tenacity. In some areas (Zambia, Guinea), they appear in the bushmeat trade because of the decline in other more favoured bushmeat species.
    • Apiculturists build their beehives at a height of at  least one meter, and on smooth posts that are impossible for ratels to climb.