What Defence Mechanisms Do Honey Badgers Have?

Small But Fierce

©Karl Svendsen
The honey badger has a well-developed reputation for its ferocity. It is a relatively small animal with the temperament of a large one and even large predators would be taking a risk by trying to kill a honey badger. The honey badger has a tough thick skin particularly over its shoulders, probably an adaptation to resisting bee stings, and this enables the animal to turn right around when gripped in this area and attack its own attacker. It has sharp canines, a powerful jaw and an unrelenting grip. Honey badgers have been known to go for the groin area of larger animals that may threaten it.

The honey badger is part of the carnivore family Mustelidae shared by the otters and polecat. Like civets and genets, of the family Viverridae, they have well developed anal glands, which open into an anal pouch and produce very strong foul-smelling secretions that are used to mark territory or expelled in self-defence. The black and white ‘warning’ (aposematic) colouration of the honey badger’s coat alerts predators to its chemical defence. If the ferocity of the badger or its chemical defence is not sufficient to put predators off, honey badgers will practice thanatosis (feign death). Predators often will not attack animals that are already believed to be dead.

No Fear

Honey badgers have short limbs, which give them a comical appearance as they lumber around. The limbs, however, are very powerful and terminate in long, blade-sharp claws, which affect the honey badger’s digging ability. They dig up prey out of their burrows or excavate hardened balls of dung to get at the fat dung-beetle grubs inside. They are able to completely demolish rotten logs to access various forms of larvae.

They make headway digging into sandy ground in just two minutes and dig new dens daily to accommodate their sometimes nomadic habits. Honey badgers rely on their sense of smell to locate their prey or food and this is subsequently their most developed sense. Their lack of substantial ears indicates that hearing is probably of little value to them especially since they have little to fear!

By Megan Emmett