iStock
iStock

11 Fierce Facts About the Honey Badger

iStock
iStock

You’ve probably heard all kinds of things about the honey badger and wondered, “Are these claims substantiated?” (First and foremost: Is it true that honey badgers don’t care?) Here are a few things we know for sure.

1. THEIR NAME MEANS “HONEY EATER OF THE CAPE.”

Mellivora capensis is the species’ formal name, but you can go ahead and judge a honey badger by its common name. These little monsters love the sweet stuff. “The Cape” is The Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, where many reside (they also call the Middle East and India home). Another one of their names is ratel, which is an Afrikaans word that might be derived from the Dutch word for honeycomb, raat.

2. THEY’RE SKUNK-LIKE.

Aside from their physical similarities, the honey badger also boasts a dangerous gland at the base of its tail containing a stinky liquid. Generally, it’s just used to mark territory, but should the animal find itself in distress, its biological kneejerk is to release a stink bomb—different, but just as rotten as its sister scent-leaver.

3. THEY CAN DIG LIKE CRAZY.

Using their long claws, honey badgers dig burrows to rest in, sometimes on a daily basis. They’ll do it anywhere—in the ground, in a tree trunk, or even into an old termite mound. If needed, they can dig themselves a hiding hole in a matter of minutes and use their natural excavation skills to capture prey underground.

4. BUT THEY’RE LAZY ABOUT HOUSEKEEPING.

If a honey badger isn’t in the mood to make its own bed, it’s not shy about making itself at home in someone else’s residence. The creatures have been known to get comfortable in the dens of aardvarks or in the tunnels of foxes, mongooses, or springhares. (Really any crevice or hole will do for the honey badger.) They’re really good at adapting: The animals are usually diurnal in winter, but where they need to avoid humans, they’re usually nocturnal.

5. THEY’RE MEAN.

It’s true that the honey badger has the Guinness Book of World Records title of "World's Most Fearless Creature," but they’re more than just audacious: they’re downright mean. They’re invasive and eager to pick a fight—even with a porcupine. But that doesn’t mean they’re invincible. Hyenas, lions, leopards and pythons are all foes (as are humans), but if those are considered your only enemies, you’re probably incredibly tough.

6. THEY’LL EAT ANYTHING.

Seriously, anything and everything. They’re omnivores who will go after mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, larvae, plants, fruit, eggs, and roots.

7. THEY’RE THICK-SKINNED.

Literally. There are reports of arrows and spears glancing off their thick, rubbery epidermis, which is also loose enough that, should a honey badger get caught in the mouth of a predator, it can writhe around and break loose. (A second option is to retaliate using its crazy powerful teeth—see number 8.) The honey badger may even have a resistance to snake venom and is sometimes able to sleep off a bite. (Their thick skin comes in handy in this way, too.) Snakes compose a quarter of their diets.

8. THEIR TEETH ARE CRAZY POWERFUL.

They can chomp down with enough force to break the shell of a tortoise.

9. THEY DON'T ACTUALLY PARTNER UP WITH BIRDS TO FIND FOOD.

You might have heard that honey badgers and honeyguide birds have a good partnership going. The honeyguide leads the badger to the hive and then eats up after the honey badger destroys it. Well, after over 200 years of study, we can pretty definitively say that honey badgers don’t care. This behavior has never been reliably seen in the wild, and even playing honeyguide songs elicits no response.

10. THEY’RE SOLITARY WEASELS.

Honey badgers are in the same family as weasels, and just like those prickly beasts, honey badgers are pretty solitary. They keep to themselves and definitely stay out of the public eye, usually only banding together to mate. Babies are the exception: Young kits often stick with their mothers for so long that they can outgrow her.

11. THEY’RE SMART.

Ferocious, fearless, and pugnacious animals aren’t always the smartest, but honey badgers break the mold. They’re so intelligent that they even use tools: Video from Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in South Africa revealed that a team of honey badgers used sticks, a rake, mud, stones, and pure determination in their attempts to escape. You can watch this, and all of Honey Badgers: Masters of Mayhem, on YouTube. If the Planet of the Apes franchise ever loses steam, it seems like we might have another animal to suggest for a spinoff.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
Authorities Want This Roadside Bear Statue in Wales Removed Before It Causes More Accidents
iStock
iStock

There are no real bears in the British Isles for residents to worry about, but a statue of one in the small Welsh town of Llanwrtyd Wells has become a cause of concern. As The Telegraph reports, the statue is so convincing that it's scaring drivers, causing at least one motorist to crash her car. Now road safety officials are demanding it be removed.

The 10-foot wooden statue has been a fixture on the roadside for at least 15 years. It made headlines in May of 2018 when a woman driving her car saw the landmark and took it to be the real thing. She was so startled that she veered off the road and into a street sign.

After the incident, she complained about the bear to highways officials who agreed that it poses a safety threat and should be removed. But the small town isn't giving in to the Welsh government's demands so quickly.

Wooden bear statue.

The bear statue was originally erected on the site of a now-defunct wool mill. Even though the mill has since closed, locals still see the statue as an important landmark. Llanwrtyd Wells councilor Peter James called it an "iconic gateway of the town," according to The Telegraph.

Another town resident, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Telegraph that the woman who crashed her car had been a tourist from Canada where bears are common. Bear were hunted to extinction in Britain about 1000 years ago, so local drivers have no reason to look out for the real animals on the side of the road.

The statue remains in its old spot, but Welsh government officials plan to remove it themselves if the town doesn't cooperate. For now, temporary traffic lights have been set up around the site of the accident to prevent any similar incidents.

[h/t The Telegraph]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
10 Scientific Benefits of Being a Dog Owner
iStock
iStock

The bickering between cat people and dog people is ongoing and vicious, but in the end, we're all better off for loving a pet. But if anyone tries to poo-poo your pooch, know that there are some scientific reasons that they're man's best friend.

1. YOU GET SICK LESS OFTEN.

Dog snuggling on a bed with its person.
iStock

If cleaning commercials are to be believed, humanity is in the midst of a war against germs—and we shouldn't stop until every single one is dead. In reality, the amount of disinfecting we do is making us sicker; since our bodies are exposed to a less diverse mix of germs, our entire microbiome is messed up. Fortunately, dogs are covered in germs! Having a dog in the house means more diverse bacteria enters the home and gets inside the occupants (one study found "dog-related biodiversity" is especially high on pillowcases). In turn, people with dogs seem to get ill less frequently and less severely than people—especially children—with cats or no pets.

2. YOU'RE MORE RESISTANT TO ALLERGIES.

Child and mother playing with a dog on a bed.
iStock

While dog dander can be a trigger for people with allergies, growing up in a house with a dog makes children less likely to develop allergies over the course of their lives. And the benefits can start during gestation; a 2017 study published in the journal Microbiome found that a bacterial exchange happened between women who lived with pets (largely dogs) during pregnancy and their children, regardless of type of birth or whether the child was breastfed, and even if the pet was not in the home after the birth of the child. Those children tested had two bacteria, Ruminococcus and Oscillospira, that reduce the risk of common allergies, asthma, and obesity, and they were less likely to develop eczema.

3. YOU'LL HAVE BETTER HEART HEALTH.

Woman doing yoga with her dog.
iStock

Everything about owning a dog seems to lend itself to better heart health. Just the act of petting a dog lowers heart rate and blood pressure. A 2017 Chinese study found a link between dog ownership and reduced risk of coronary artery disease, while other studies show pet owners have slightly lower cholesterol and are more likely to survive a heart attack.

4. YOU GET MORE EXERCISE.

Person running in field with a dog.
iStock

While other pets have positive effects on your health as well, dogs have the added benefit of needing to be walked and played with numerous times a day. This means that many dog owners are getting 30 minutes of exercise a day, lowering their risk of cardiovascular disease.

5. YOU'LL BE HAPPIER.

Woman cuddling her dog.
iStock

Dog owners are less likely to suffer from depression than non-pet owners. Even for those people who are clinically depressed, having a pet to take care of can help them out of a depressive episode. Since taking care of a dog requires a routine and forces you to stay at least a little active, dog owners are more likely to interact with others and have an increased sense of well-being while tending to their pet. The interaction with and love received from a dog can also help people stay positive. Even the mere act of looking at your pet increases the amount of oxytocin, the "feel good" chemical, in the brain.

6. YOU HAVE A MORE ACTIVE SOCIAL LIFE.

Large bulldog licking a laughing man.
iStock

Not only does dog ownership indirectly tell others that you're trustworthy, your trusty companion can help facilitate friendships and social networks. A 2015 study published in PLOS One found that dogs can be both the catalyst for sparking new relationships and also the means for keeping social networks thriving. One study even showed that those with dogs also had closer and more supportive relationships with the people in their lives.

7. YOUR DOG MIGHT BE A CANCER DETECTOR.

Man high-fiving his dog.
iStock

Your dog could save your life one day: It seems that our canine friends have the ability to smell cancer in the human body. Stories abound of owners whose dogs kept sniffing or licking a mole or lump on their body so they got it checked out, discovering it was cancerous. The anecdotal evidence has been backed up by scientific studies, and some dogs are now trained to detect cancer.

8. YOU'LL BE LESS STRESSED AT WORK.

Woman working on a computer while petting a dog.
iStock

The benefits of bringing a dog to work are so increasingly obvious that more companies are catching on. Studies show that people who interact with a pet while working have lower stress levels throughout the day, while people who do not bring a pet see their stress levels increase over time. Dogs in the office also lead to people taking more breaks, to play with or walk the dog, which makes them more energized when they return to work. This, in turn, has been shown to lead to much greater productivity and job satisfaction.

9. YOU CAN FIND OUT MORE ABOUT YOUR PERSONALITY.

Man running in surf with dog.
iStock

The kind of dog you have says a lot about your personality. A study in England found a very clear correlation between people's personalities and what type of dogs they owned; for example, people who owned toy dogs tended to be more intelligent, while owners of utility dogs like Dalmatians and bulldogs were the most conscientious. Other studies have found that dog owners in general are more outgoing and friendly than cat owners.

10. YOUR KIDS WILL BE MORE EMPATHETIC.

A young boy having fun with his dog.
iStock

Though one 2003 study found that there was no link between pet ownership and empathy in a group of children, a 2017 study of 1000 7- to 12-year-olds found that pet attachment of any kind encouraged compassion and positive attitudes toward animals, which promoted better well-being for both the child and the pet. Children with dogs scored the highest for pet attachment, and the study notes that "dogs may help children to regulate their emotions because they can trigger and respond to a child's attachment related behavior." And, of course, only one pet will happily play fetch with a toddler.

A version of this story originally ran in 2015.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios