This mustelid don’t give a shit.

The Honey Badger (Mellivora capensis) can be found throughout most of Africa, southwest Asia and the Arabian and Indian Peninsulas. In Afrikaans, it is called ratel, which might be a reference to its rattling vocalization. It is not a true badger - it is actually more closely related to martens, but not closely enough to be classified in the same genus. Therefore it is the only extant member of the genus Mellivora, and is so abundant that it is considered to be a species of least concern by the IUCN. They are the largest mustelids native to Africa.

Honey Badgers are muscle and skin. They are stocky creatures, with short, thick legs and and heavy bodies. Their skin is incredibly loose, which gives them a great advantage during aggressive encounters with other animals - it allows them to twist and pull away to get a grip on their attackers, avoiding being pinned itself. Their coats are coarse hairs, usually dark on their lower bodies and lighter on their backs. Different coloring can denote different subspecies. Adults can grow up to 30 inches (77 cm) in body length, stand 11 inches (28 cm) at the shoulder, and weigh up to 35 pounds (16 kg). Males are usually heavier than females.


The diet of Honey Badgers is among the least-specialized of any mustelid. They will eat anything they can catch, and have a particular fondness for honeycomb, which is how they come by their common name. They have a specific strategy for raiding beehives, which involves emptying their anal glands to stink the bees away, and digging in once most of them are gone. Their thick skin allows them protection from stings. Honey Badgers that live close to human settlements will often only be active at night, but in more remote areas they will forage at any time of the day.

The territories of Honey Badgers are often structured so that one male’s territory will overlap the smaller territories of as many as thirteen females, all of whom he will try to mate with when the time comes. Honey Badgers have a polygynous mating system. After a gestation period of up to 70 days, the females will give birth to a single cub in a birthing den she dug herself. Females usually space births at least 12 months apart, as cubs are dependent upon their mothers for a significant amount of time.


There are currently 12 recognized subspecies:

  • Mellivora capensis capensis (Southwestern Africa)
  • Mellivora capensis abyssinica (Ethiopia)
  • Mellivora capensis buechneri (Turkmenistan)
  • Mellivora capensis concisa (Sudan)
  • Mellivora capensis cottoni (northeastern Congo and Ghana)
  • Mellivora capensis inaurita (Nepal and surrounding area)
  • Mellivora capensis indica (India, Pakistan, Afghanistan)
  • Mellivora capensis leuconota (southern Morocco and West Africa)
  • Mellivora capensis maxwelli (Kenya)
  • Mellivora capensis pumilio (southern Arabia)
  • Mellivora capensis signata (Sierra Leone)
  • Mellivora capensis wilsoni (Iran and Iraq)


Although Honey Badgers are not under threat of extinction, they are involved in numerous conflicts with poultry farmers and bee keepers, because of their taste for bird and honeycomb. They are persistent and aggressive, and it’s almost impossible to keep them out of somewhere they’re determined to go. They can also be carriers of rabies, and are sometimes hunted for use in “traditional medicine.”

Source of all images used in this post.