In spite of their name, honey badgers are highly opportunistic in their feeding habits, and they therefore occur in a wide range of different habitats.
Honey badgers are secretive hunters and are rarely seen, despite having a wide range that spans most of Africa and southern Asia. The badgers are also known as ratels.
The moniker honey badger might give the impression of sweetness but it belies this hunter's fearsome nature. The name is derived from the animal’s love of honey. Honey badgers can locate the nests of wild bees thanks to a remarkable partnership with a bird. They will follow greater honeyguides, which locate the nests for them. The honey guide leads the badger to a tree containing a bees' nest. The badger then climbs the tree, knocks the nest down and rips it apart to expose the honeycomb inside. Once it has finished feeding, the honeyguide will dart in and receive its reward by eating the beeswax, as well as bee larvae. More often, though, honey badgers hunt and scavenge for food.
Although the honey badger does not have stripes on its face like other species of badger, it does have a silver-grey "cape" on its back, which extends from just behind the eyes to the tip of the tail. A few honey badgers do not have a cape at all. The young are rusty brown in colour. Males are only slightly larger than the females.
Honey badgers generally forage at night. They usually move around alone but sometimes small family groups hunt together. The badgers do not have a den like other species of badger. Instead they roam large distances in search of food, resting in temporary shelters before moving on again. Without a safe place to retreat to, honey badgers will readily fight any threat; in fact they are known for being especially fierce in fights. They will attack an unsuspecting human if cornered and have been known to even bite cars.
Distribution: Most of Africa, apart from the Sahara region. Extends across the Arabian Peninsula, eastwards through southern parts of Asia to Turkmenistan and the Indian subcontinent.
Habitat: Grasslands, rocky areas, semi-deserts, forests and woodlands.
Weight: 5.5 - 14 kg (12 - 31 lb); males are heavier.
Length: 76 - 132 cm (30 - 52 in); up to 30 cm (12 in) tall.
Maturity: 2 - 3 years.
Gestation Period: 42 - 56 days; embryonic development may not start straight after fertilization in northern areas.
Breeding: Average 2, ranges from 1 - 4; weaning occurs at around 1 year.
Food: Primarily carnivorous, preying on insects, fish, reptiles, amphibians and mammals up to the size of antelopes.
Lifespan: 3 - 11 years; up to 26 in captivity.
Long, sharp front claws enable a honey badger to gain access to a bees' nest easily.
Eyes, nose and ears
The ears and eyes are small, while the nose is broad.
Coat and tail
Thick and dense, the coat helps prevent angry bees stinging the honey badger. The tail is relatively short.
The honey badger (or ratel) has been called the world's most fearless animal, often intimidating creatures much larger than itself.