badger, name for several related members of the weasel family. Most badgers are large, nocturnal, burrowing animals, with broad, heavy bodies, long snouts, large, sharp claws, and long, grizzled fur. The Old World badger, Meles meles, is found in Europe and in Asia N of the Himalayas; it is about 3 ft (90 cm) long, with a 4-in. (10-cm) tail, and weighs about 30 lb (13.6 kg). Its unusual coloring, light above and dark below, is unlike that of most mammals but is found in some other members of the family. The head is white, with a conspicuous black stripe on each side. European badgers live, often in groups, in large burrows called sets, which they usually dig in dry slopes in woods. They emerge at night to forage for food; their diet is mainly earthworms but also includes rodents, young rabbits, insects, and plant matter. The American badger, Taxidea taxus, is about 2 ft (60 cm) long, with a 5-in. (13-cm) tail and weighs 12 to 24 lb (5.4–10.8 kg); it is very short-legged, which gives its body a flattened appearance. The fur is yellowish gray and the face black, with a white stripe over the forehead and around each eye. It is found in open grasslands and deserts of W and central North America, from N Alberta to N Mexico. It feeds largely on rodents and carrion; an extremely swift burrower, it pursues ground squirrels and prairie dogs into their holes, and may construct its own living quarters 30 ft (9.1 m) below ground level. American badgers are solitary and mostly nocturnal; in the extreme north they sleep through the winter. Several kinds of badger are found in SE Asia; these are classified in a number of genera. Badgers are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Carnivora, family Mustelidae.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Vertebrate Zoology