The European Badger is a species of badger found in almost everywhere in Europe and parts of Asia. Also known as the Eurasian badger or simply Badger, these mammals are a common animal in many zoological parks in the world and is even known to make good pets.
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European Badger Scientific Classification
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Table of Contents
Size: Their head to body length is around 750 mm.
Weight: Their weights tend to vary by season. During autumn, they tend to weigh between 11 and 12 kg, while during mating season (spring) they weigh less at around 8 to 9.
Fur: The entire body is covered with a black and white coat, while the skull (head) is covered with stripes of the same color.
Body: They have a strong and muscular body with short legs and long claws.
Tail: They have a bushy tail that measures around 150 mm.
Sexual Dimorphism: There are no visible differences between the sexes except that the males are slightly larger than the females.
Their longevity in the wild is around 12 years, while in captivity, it is approximately 16.
The European Badger is native to almost all of the parts of the European continent and some parts of West Asia.
The ideal habitat of the European Badger includes deciduous and coniferous forests, as also mixed woodlands adjacent to open fields. They have also been seen dwelling in hedges, scrub, agricultural land, grassland, riverine habitats, steppes, and semi-deserts.
Classification of Species
European Badgers have been classified as eight recognized subspecies as follows:
- Common badger – Meles meles meles – is the nominate subspecies and is found in almost entire Europe except Rhodes, Crete, and Spain;
- Cretan badger – Meles meles arcalus – found in the Greek island of Crete;
- Trans-Caucasian badger – Meles meles canascens – found in parts of Asia including Transcaucasia, Kopet Dag, Iran, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, and probably in Asia Minor;
- Kizlyar badger – Meles meles heptneri – found in the Steppe region;
- Iberian badger – Meles meles marianensis – found in the Iberian Peninsula;
- Norwegian badger – Meles meles milleri – found in the south-western regions of Norway;
- Rhodes badger – Meles meles rhodius – found in the Greek island of Rhodes;
- Fergana badger – Meles meles severzovi – found in some parts of Asia’s Panj River, Amu Darya, Pamiro-Alay system, the Fergana Valley and its adjoining areas.
American Badger vs. European Badger
The main difference between the American and the European badgers lies in their very appearance. While the former is primarily hefty, with the body covered with brown to beige body hair, the latter has a relatively muscular appearance with their characteristic black and white coat coloration.
These badgers are primarily nocturnal mammals, and usually sleep all day. Though sometimes they can be seen passing secretly through the bushes amidst sunlight. They are known to have a bad temperament, and if they feel threatened, they tend to attack enemies larger by size, including humans.
European badgers forage by digging burrows and finding food underground. They make homes digging caves and tunnels, while they use grass and leaves to arrange for their bedding. Very interestingly, they are clean animals and would reserve a special chamber that they use as a toilet.
A single home can be several centuries old and can be used by several generations. One single home can be anything between 22 and 109 yards (20 to 100 meters) or even more in length.
They usually do not hibernate, but at times sleep for a few days at a stretch, or even weeks, inside their burrows during the coldest months of the year.
These badgers are the most social among all badger species and form groups of around six adult individuals, as also their young ones, if any. However, bigger associations of up to 23 individuals have also been recorded. Their groups are territorial and do not allow members of the other groups to enter inside their area.
Badgers are omnivorous, while their main food source is earthworms, which they can eat in many hundreds in one night. They would also consume other invertebrates, as also, small vertebrates, and even hedgehogs. Among plant matters, they would eat bulbs, nuts, fruit, and cereals.
Reproduction and Life Cycle
The mating season of the badger falls in the spring. However, they have been seen mating in the other times of the year. The gestation period can vary between 9 and 12 months. Each litter contains 1 to 5 (average 3) offspring.
The baby badgers (called cubs) remain in their birthing chamber for about eight weeks. They are playful in nature and remain active almost at all time. They attain the age of sexual maturity at around two years of age.
- These animals have strong limbs with sharp claws that help them in digging burrows, as also find and capture prey underground. The sharp nails also help them in digging tunnels and caves.
- Their striking black and white stripes help them in camouflage by recreating the look of trees and branches in the dark.
- The large bulbous canine teeth and the sharp incisors of the badgers help them chewing any small mammals.
Adult badgers do not have any natural predators. However, humans often hunt them down for their fur.
The population of the badger is static, and they have been marked by the IUCN 3.1 as ‘LC’ (Least Concern).
- In Germany, the dog breed dachshund was bred exclusively to hunt badgers. In fact, the name of the dog in German translates to “badger hound”.
- Their home is called a ‘sett’.
- Bovine tuberculosis is a common disease that often affects the badgers.