honey badger or ratel (rātˈəl) [key], carnivore, Mellivora capensis, of the forest and brush country of Africa, the Middle East, and India; it is a member of the badger and skunk family. Related to the wolverine and martens, as shown by the resemblance in teeth, the honey badger resembles in fossorial form and perhaps in its fierce disposition the true badgers. The honey badger has short legs and stout claws and is a strong burrower and a good climber. About 2 ft (61 cm) long excluding the tail, it has a coat that is black on the lower half of the body and pale gray above. The honey badger resembles its distant relative the skunk in coloration and in the possession of an anal scent gland. It is nocturnal, feeds on rodents, reptiles, and insects, and has a thick loose coat that protects it against snake bites and insect stings. The honey badger collaborates with the honeyguide, or indicator bird, in obtaining honey, a favorite food. The bird searches for a bee colony, and when one is found, the honey badger rips it open. The bird and the honey badger then share the honey. Honey badgers travel singly or in pairs. The young, usually two, are born in burrows. Honey badgers are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Carnivora, family Mustelidae.
See C. A. Long and C. A. Killingley, The Badgers of the World, (1983).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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