Greetings, readers. Many people know the Tasmanian Devil solely from the goofy, spinning binge-eating creature that menaced Bugs Bunny in the Warner Bros. cartoons. However, the Devil (Sarcophilus harisii) is very real — a black-furred, foul-smelling creature the size of a small dog with the strongest bite-to-body-size ratio in the world. Devils in the wild are currently listed as Endangered, largely due to a contagious form of cancer, Devil Facial Tumour Disease, spread throughout (as of 2010) 80% of the wild population through the fact that Devils try to bite each others’ faces off while eating roadkill, having sex, or simply encountering one another.
However, it is not the Devil I am here to talk about today. I bring it up, rather, as a point of reference, as the creature I would like to discuss, the Honey Badger (native to Africa, the Middle East and the Indian Peninsula) fills a similar ecologic niche and comes across as something akin to a Tasmanian Devil heavily dosed with PCP. I know what you’re thinking, readers. With a name like “Honey Badger,” Mellivora capensis can’t be *that* obscene, right?
The Honey Badger received it’s name from a tendency to rip open bees’ nests to eat the inhabitants, all while getting stung in the face hundreds or thousands of times. Eating the honey is kind of an afterthought, a sweet dessert to cap off a protein-rich lunch of bees.
It’s also not technically a badger. A member of the Mustelid family, the Honey Badger (sometimes called a Ratel) is more closely related to weasels, skunks, stoats, ferrets, minks and of course, the wolverine. Measuring in at about three and a half feet long and averaging about thirty pounds, it’s the size of a medium dog, with a long, thick body, small, flattened skull, short claws on its hindpaws and inch-and-a-half long talons on its forepaws, and a white or gray stripe down its back, varying in shape and size across the various subspecies. It’s hide is impressive, with skin measuring a quarter-inch thick in places, while still hanging loose enough on the Honey Badger that if grabbed from behind, it can easily twist around to kill it’s would-be attacker.
Yes, while the Honey Badger’s diet consists largely of venomous snakes, scorpions, spiders, rats, poultry, cats, dogs, bees, ants, termites and lost children, it will readily attack much larger creatures, including jackals, hyenas, leopards, water buffalo, crocodiles, elephants, Jeeps, and armed soldiers. Its skin can withstand several blows from a machete, and spears and arrows fail to penetrate. Even small-caliber bullets are an iffy choice to go Honey Badger-hunting with. If you must go after one, large-caliber shot as recommended, and bashing it’s head in with a large (preferably spiked) club has been shown to be effective, albeit chancy due to how close you have to get to this furry little killing machine. The Honey Badger has even been observed chasing lions away from kills, and since 2002 has been listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as “The Most Fearless Animal Alive.”
And how does the Honey Badger go after such creatures as lions, leopards and elephants? Well, when faced with a creature too large to be readily disemboweled with its inch and a half claws, the Honey Badger instinctively attacks its enemy’s testicles. Yes, you read that right. The Honey Badger has been observed running under a male lion, biting down and running away with Simba’s Pride clenched in its jaws, while the lion is left to die of blood loss, shock, and presumably simply losing the will to go on as a eunuch.
Here’s a video of the Honey Badger in action:
That’s an African Puff Adder, one of the most venomous snakes on the continent, responsible for more human casualties per year than any other species of snake in Africa. The Honey Badger walks right up and takes a rat out of the Puff Adder’s mouth. The snake bites the Honey Badger in the face, pumping in enough venom to kill me (and I’m almost ten times the Badger’s weight), causing the Badger to kill the snake right back with what would presumably be its last act on Earth before shuffling off the Honey Badger mortal coil. The Honey Badger collapses from the toxic cocktail coursing through its bloodstream, but then a couple hours later wakes up – basically rising from the dead – shakes it off, and eats the snake for good measure.
I do not understand how this unstoppable rage-fueled hellbeast has not been made the star of a horror movie. So, in keeping with my last Tooth and Claw column, here’s an attempt at what one might look like:
A farm in Africa is testing an experimental strain of genetically-engineered wheat. Unfortunately, rats get into the silo and feed on the grain, and soon thereafter a Honey Badger in the area starts eating the rats. Before long, the Honey Badger has ballooned up to almost six feet in length and over a hundred pounds, and rats are no longer anything more then an h’ors deuvre. But the people in the farm are looking mighty tasty…
As the beast attempts to force its way inside, it’s up to the farmer and his family to find a way to kill the Honey Badger before it kills them. But at this size, its pelt can stop .44 caliber shells and a machete blade would snap against it’s skull. Will they be able to survive in the face of…THE BADGER?
Alright, readers, that’s it for this installment of TOOTH AND CLAW. Join me next time for another encounter with a creature that demonstrates that Nature is one bad Mother.