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 9 species of badger, in three subfamilies: Melinae (the Eurasian badgers), Mellivorinae, (the Ratel or honey badger), and Taxidinae (the American badger). The name 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. 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.
The collective name for a group of badgers is a cete.
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).
Because of their fidelity and gentle nature, badgers are seen by some as a symbol of love and loyalty.
Badgers are the largest indigenous carnivores of the British Isles.
- Family Mustelidae
- Subfamily Lutrinae: otters
- Subfamily Melinae
- Indonesian or Javan Stink Badger (Teledu), Mydaus javanensis
- Palawan Stink Badger, Mydaus marchei
- 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 Taxidinae:
- American Badger, Taxidea taxus
- Subfamily Mustelinae: weasels, martens, polecats and allies
American badger (Taxidea taxus)
The American badger ranges over the greater part of the western and central United States as well as northern Mexico and southern Canada. Like the Eurasian badgers it is a powerful digger, but some of its behaviors differ from those of its relatives.
T. taxus is more carnivorous than the Meles species, and does not inhabit a permanent sett, or hole. Unless it is courting or rearing young, the American badger lives apart from others of its kind. It hunts, wanders and sleeps in temporary burrows within a given territory, often inhabiting holes excavated by other animals and sometimes even sharing space with the original tenants.
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. They 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.
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 antagonist. Consequently the animals were used in the cruel sport of badger-baiting. Weighing up to thirty-five pounds when fully grown, badgers have an extraordinary dangerous bite, which it is 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 badger's skill at digging has led to folk beliefs that the animal's paws give good luck in childbirth. The Pueblo people consider the badger great healers and believe them to be intimately connected to their shamans. Japanese legends include shapeshifting badgers.