The world’s most fearless animal

Or so says the Guinness Book of World Records. It’s the honey badger, and it’s mean! These beasts (Mellivora capensis), who live in Africa and Asia, are in the family Mustelidae along with skunks, weasels, and otters.

You can find YouTube videos of honey badgers killing or standing up to lions, leopards, and monitor lizards, and they raid African honey bee nests with impunity.

Here’s one chowing down on a puff adder.  The badger gets bitten, is incapacitated for two hours, and then recovers to finish its meal.  Somehow this species has evolved immunity to the bites of these snakes, which are often deadly to humans.

There are persistent reports that, when attacking large mammals, the badgers go for the naughty bits.  These are as yet unconfirmed by biologists:

Do badgers emasculate their prey?

Honey badgers are reputed to go for the scrotum when attacking large animals. The first published record of this behaviour was a circumstantial account by Stevenson- Hamilton (1947) where a badger reportedly castrated an adult Buffalo. Other animals alleged to have been emasculated by honey badgers include wildebeest, waterbuck, kudu, zebra and man [JAC note: I doubt it!]. This has also been reported by other African tribes, but no direct evidence exists to support this behaviour.

13 Comments

  1. Hempenstein
    Posted May 16, 2010 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    Ha, that must be it – my pal’s dog Dexter must have some honey badger genes. Dexter is a little dog of some sort, and he’s never liked me. He may be the only dog who’s never consistently liked me, always furiously yapping and lunging. I fend him off with my foot as a shield. I finally sat down on the floor, gloved, and after maybe 10min got him calmed down. Next time I saw him I thought he might remember. Nope – the little fucker bit me on the crotch. Fortunately, I was wearing jeans, and his aim was off so I got away with no lasting damage.

  2. SLC
    Posted May 16, 2010 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Wolverines are also known for attacking larger predators. Is the honey badger more aggressive then a wolverine?

    • Kirth Gersen
      Posted May 17, 2010 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      It’s a very, very close relative. Almost all of the mustelids are noted for their ferocity; Anderson (1966) notes a raptor swooping to pick up a weasel, only to fall out of the sky a short time later, the weasel’s teeth still gripped in its breast. A report from the ’20s describes an eagle found with a bleached weasel skull still fixed to its neck by the teeth.

  3. Jacobus van Beverningk
    Posted May 16, 2010 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    When our stoic and aloof female cat (Bonnie) ‘punishes’ our out-of-control nervous-wreck male cat (Clyde) for AGAIN pissing in front of the dryer, she also ALWAYS goes for his balls!
    (Which, btw, he doesn’t have any more; something he seems to forget from time and time and engages in behavior for which he ALSO will be firmly punished by Bonnie who would have “NONE OF THAT”).

  4. Posted May 16, 2010 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    Looks like a cross between Don King and an angry possum sloth.

  5. Barry
    Posted May 16, 2010 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    “These (“naughty bites”) are as yet unconfirmed by biologists.”

    Nude field biologists could provide a simple experiment.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted May 16, 2010 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

      Assuming they have the balls for it?

  6. SaintStephen
    Posted May 16, 2010 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    I know this isn’t Pharyngula, but I feel compelled to honor the mighty honey badgers with their own song.

    Sorry ’bout that.

  7. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted May 16, 2010 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    That was seriously cute all around!

    Also feels impressive re the snake handling, since the lights can have handicapped the badger more than the snake.

  8. I Am Epiglottis
    Posted May 16, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    Ah, honey badgers. This post reminded me of the rumours in Iraq a couple of years ago that the occupying British forces were using badger warfare on the unfortunate civilians of Basra. Spokesman Major Mike Shearer said, with a commendably straight face, “we can categorically state that we have not released man-eating badgers into the area.”

  9. MadScientist
    Posted May 16, 2010 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    I’ve always wondered if the honey badger was the inspiration for the Bandersnatch. I pity anyone who sees one and goes “oooh, cute animal …”

  10. Grendels Dad
    Posted May 17, 2010 at 12:04 am | Permalink

    Drop bears and sack badgers… What is the world coming to?

  11. Posted June 23, 2011 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Honey Badgers are awesome. Anything that can survive a puff adder shot to the cheek deserves reverence.


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