Why you should never mess with a honey badger

When you think of badgers, you probably imagine shy, snuffling woodland creatures with pretty, striped faces. Brace yourself, because the honey badger – despite its sweet name – is a whole different mouthful of teeth. In fact, it holds the official Guinness Book of World Records title for most fearless animal in the world!

Despite their name, honey badgers actually have more in common with weasels than they do with the other badger species. Around one metre (3.3 feet) in length and 30 centimetres (12 inches) tall, their bodies are squat, stocky and incredibly strong, and they move with a self-assured trot. They’re nocturnal and generally solitary, and a large brain-to-body size ratio makes them master problem solvers.

Honey badgers are also ferocious fighters, all rattling snarls and vicious lunges. They don’t think twice about giving attitude to hyenas – animals five times their weight, with jaws more powerful than a lion’s – and are reported to go for the scrotum. One account even tells of a trio of honey badgers teaming up to chase a group of seven lions from their kill.

It may sound like the honey badger has a death wish, but this crazy little critter has every reason to be so bold. Virtually no predator can get the better of it, thanks to its secret weapon: its rubbery skin. At over half a centimetre (0.2 inches) thick, it is almost impenetrable to sharp objects, including spears, scorpion stings, and porcupine spines. Because the skin hangs loose around its muscular frame, a caught honey badger is able to twist right around and sink its vicious teeth and claws into its attacker’s face. It can take a fully-grown leopard an hour to kill one of these tenacious little beasts!

The honey badger
The honey badger

What’s on the menu

Literally everything. Honey badgers are eating machines with high metabolisms, meaning they’re constantly on the lookout for food. As their name suggests, they have a penchant for honeycomb; in particular the protein-rich bee larvae, which they will climb trees and shrug off hundreds of stings to secure.

As much as half of a honey badger’s diet is made up of venomous snakes like puff adders. Even if they get bitten in battle, the relentless attackers are seemingly resistant to snake venom and apparently able to sleep off its effects in just a short time.

They also enjoy eating rodents, reptiles, birds, insects, small mammals, carrion and trash, and will just as soon scavenge as hunt. Where they cross paths with human residences, honey badgers will rifle through bins and ransack homes and kitchens, earning them the title ‘masters of mayhem’.

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