Badgers are short-legged omnivores in the weasel family, Mustelidae. The 11 species of badger are grouped in three subfamilies: Melinae (9 Eurasian badgers), Mellivorinae (the ratel) and Taxideinae (the American badger). The Asiatic Stink badgers of the genus Mydaus were formerly included within Melinae (and thus Mustelidae), but recent genetic evidence indicates these are actually members of the skunk family, placing them in the taxonomic family Mephitidae.
Badgers include the species in the genera Meles, Arctonyx, Taxidea and Mellivora. Their lower jaws are articulated to the upper by means of transverse condyles firmly locked into long cavities of the skull, so dislocation of the jaw is all but impossible. This enables the badgers to maintain their hold with the utmost tenacity, but limits jaw movement to hinging open and shut, or sliding from side to side without the twisting movement possible for the jaws of most mammals.
Badgers have rather short, fat bodies, with short legs for digging. They have elongated weasel-like heads with small ears. Their tails vary in length depending on species; the stink badger has a very short tail, while the ferret badger's tail can be 46–51 cm (18–20 in) long, depending on age. They have black faces with distinctive white markings, gray bodies with a light-coloured stripe from head to tail, and dark legs with light coloured stomachs. They grow to around 90 centimetres (35 in) in length including tail. The European badger is one of the largest; the American badger, the hog badger and the honey badger are generally a little smaller and lighter. The stink badgers are smaller still, and the ferret badgers are the smallest of all. They weigh around 9.1–11 kg (20–24 lb) on average, with some Eurasian badgers weighing in at around 18 kg (40 lb).
The derivation of the word "badger", originally applied to the European badger (Meles meles), is uncertain. It possibly comes from the French word bêcheur (digger). The Oxford English Dictionary states it probably derives from "badge" + -ard, referring to the white mark borne like a badge on its forehead.
The less common name "brock" (Old English: brocc), (Scots: brock) is a Celtic loanword (cf. Gaelic broc and Welsh broch, from Proto-Celtic *brokko) meaning "grey". The Proto-Germanic term was *þahsu- (cf. German Dachs, Dutch das, Norwegian svin-toks; Early Modern English: dasse), probably from the PIE root *tek'- "to construct," so the badger would have been named after its digging of setts (tunnels); the Germanic term *þahsu- became taxus or taxō, -ōnis in Latin glosses, replacing mēlēs ("marten" or "badger"), and from these words the common Romance terms for the animal evolved (Italian tasso, French tesson/taisson/tasson—now blaireau is more common—, Catalan toixó, Spanish tejón, Portuguese texugo).
A male badger is a boar, a female is a sow, and a young badger is a cub. A collective name suggested for a group of badgers is a cete, but badger colonies are more often called clans. A badger's home is called a sett.
The following list shows where the various species with the common name of badger are placed in the Mustelidae classification. The list is polyphyletic and the species commonly called badgers do not, if the stink badgers are included, form a valid clade.
- Family Mustelidae
- Subfamily Melinae
- Genus Arctonyx
- Hog badger, Arctonyx collaris
- Genus Meles
- Genus Melogale [Some scientists assign this genus to the subfamily Helictidinae]
- Genus Arctonyx
- Subfamily Mellivorinae
- Honey badger or ratel, Mellivora capensis
- Subfamily Taxideinae:
- Subfamily Mustelinae
- Subfamily Melinae
- Family Mephitidae
Badgers are found in much of North America, Ireland, Great Britain and most of Europe as far as southern Scandinavia. They live as far east as Japan and China. The Javan ferret-badger lives in Indonesia, and the Bornean ferret-badger lives in Malaysia. The honey badger is found in most of sub-Saharan Africa, the Arabian Desert, southern Levant, Turkmenistan, and India.
The behavior of badgers differs by family, but all shelter underground, living in burrows called setts, which may be very extensive. Some are solitary, moving from home to home, while others are known to form clans called cetes. Cete size is variable from two to fifteen. Badgers can be fierce animals and will protect themselves and their young at all costs, and are capable of fighting off much larger animals, such as wolves and bears. Badgers can run or gallop at 25–30 km/h (16–19 mph) for short periods of time. Badgers are nocturnal.
In North America, coyotes sometimes eat badgers and vice versa, but the majority of their interactions seem to be mutual or neutral. American badgers and coyotes have been seen hunting together in a cooperative fashion.
The diet of the Eurasian badger consists largely of earthworms, insects, and grubs. They also eat small mammals, amphibians, reptiles and birds, as well as roots and fruit. In southern Spain, badgers mostly feed on rabbits. The honey badger of Africa consumes honey, porcupines and even venomous snakes (such as the puff adder); they will climb trees to gain access to honey from bees' nests. American badgers are fossorial carnivores. Unlike many carnivores that stalk their prey in open country, badgers catch most of their food by digging. They can tunnel after ground-dwelling rodents with remarkable speed.
Hunting badgers is common in many countries. Manipulating the badger population is prohibited in many European countries, as badgers are listed in the Berne Convention, but they are not otherwise the subject of any international treaty or legislation.
The blood sport of badger-baiting was outlawed in the United Kingdom by the Cruelty to Animals Act 1835, as well as the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, which makes it a serious offence to kill, injure or take a badger, or to damage or interfere with a sett unless a license is obtained from a statutory authority. An exemption that allowed fox hunters to loosely block setts to prevent chased foxes escaping into them was brought to an end with the passage of the Hunting Act 2004.
Many badgers in Europe were gassed during the 1960s and 1970s to control rabies. Until the 1980s, badger culling in the United Kingdom was undertaken in the form of gassing, to control the spread of bovine tuberculosis (bTB). Limited culling resumed in 1998 as part of a 10-year randomised trial cull which despite a 16% reduction of confirmed new incidence of TB in cattle, was considered by John Krebs and others to show that culling was ineffective. Some scientists favoured a programme of vaccination. Despite this advice, the UK government announced an intention to reintroduce full culling in England in 2012, a plan which was later cancelled due to significant opposition and a public petition. A cull is being considered for 2013. According to the United Kingdom newspaper "The Independent" of February 28, 2013 "More than 5,000 badgers will be slaughtered in the West Country after the Government approved licences for badger culls to commence in June of this year". The stated rationale is to lessen the spread of tuberculosis in cattle.
Commercial use 
Today, badgers are commercially trapped for their hair, which is harvested to make shaving brushes. Virtually all commercial badger hair comes from mainland China, which supplies knots of hair in three grades to brush makers in both China and Europe. In rural Northern China, badgers multiplied to the point of becoming a crop nuisance, and village cooperatives are licensed by the national government to hunt badgers and process their hair. The hair is also used for paint brushes, and was used as a trim on Native American garments. It has been used in some instances as doll hair.
Although rarely eaten today in the United States or the United Kingdom, badgers were once a primary meat source for the diets of Native Americans and white colonists. Badgers were also eaten in Britain during World War II and the 1950s.
In Russia, the consumption of badger meat is still widespread. Shish kebabs made from badger, along with dog meat and pork, are a major source of trichinosis outbreaks in the Altai region of Russia. In Croatia, badger meat is rarely eaten. When it is, it is usually smoked and dried or, less commonly, served in goulash.
In France, badger meat was used in the preparation of several dishes, such as Blaireau au sang, and it was a relatively common ingredient in countryside cuisine. Badger meat was eaten in some parts of Spain until recently. In Japan, badger is regarded in folktales as a food for the humble.
Popular culture 
Badger characters are featured in author Brian Jacques' Redwall series, most often falling under the title of Badger Lord or Badger Mother, and the 19th century poem "The Badger" by John Clare describes a badger hunt and badger-baiting. The character Frances in Russell Hoban's children's books is depicted as a badger. A badger god is featured in The Immortals by Tamora Pierce and "The Badger" is a comic book hero created by Mike Baron. Trufflehunter is a heroic badger in the Chronicles of Narnia book Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis. In Lafcadio Hearn's book Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things there is a short story titled Mujina, which is a shapeshifting badger.
Many other stories featuring badgers as characters include Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Mr. Tod (Tommy Brock), the Rupert Bear adventures by Mary Tourtel, Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, T. H. White's The Once and Future King and The Book of Merlyn, Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl, Colin Dann's The Animals of Farthing Wood, Richard Adams's Watership Down and Erin Hunter's Warriors. In Incident at Hawk's Hill by Allan W. Eckert a badger is one of the main characters.
Badgers are also featured in films and animations: a flash video of "The Badger Song" shows a group doing calisthenics; in Pokémon, Typhlosion and Linoone are based on badgers. Walt Disney's 1973 film Robin Hood, depicts the character of Friar Tuck as a badger. In the Doctor Snuggles series, Dennis the handyman, was a badger.
In Japanese folklore, the badger is a wild creature that sometimes appears as a mischievous being. In Europe, badgers were traditionally used to predict the length of winter. The badger is both the state animal of the U.S. state of Wisconsin and the mascot of the athletic teams at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The badger is also the official mascot of Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, as well as that of St Aidan's College at the University of Durham.
In 2007, the appearance of honey badgers around the British base at Basra, Iraq fueled rumors among the locals that British forces deliberately released "man-eating" and "bear-like" badgers to spread panic. These allegations were refuted by the British army and the director of Basra's veterinary hospital.
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|Wikispecies has information related to: melinae|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: meles|
- Badgerland – The Definitive On-Line Guide to Badgers in the UK
- WildlifeOnline – Natural History of Badgers
- Badger Facts
- 2001 Badger survey Netherlands
- Local dutch badger group
- Badger-Coyote Associations
- Texts on Wikisource: