Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Badger

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BADGER (Meles), a family of Plantigrade Carnivora, possessing greatly elongated bodies and short limbs, each of the latter furnished with five toes, provided at their extremities with long, powerful claws, by means of which they form deep burrows in the earth. The carnassial tooth, which in the bears is wholly tuberculate, is in the badgers provided also with a cutting edge, their whole dentition being specially adapted to the partly vegetable, partly animal diet on which they subsist. The badger differs from all other mammals in having the lower jaw so articulated to the upper, by means of a transverse condyle firmly locked into a long cavity of the cranium, that dislocation of the jaw is all but impossible, and this enables those creatures to maintain their hold with the utmost tenacity. The European badger (Meles Taxus) may be taken as typical of the entire family. It is nowhere abundant, but is found over the entire northern parts of Europe and Asia. It is a quiet, inoffensive animal, nocturnal and solitary in its habits, sleeping by day in its burrow, and issuing forth at night to feed on roots, beech-mast, fruits, the eggs of birds, some of the smaller quadrupeds, frogs, and insects. It is said also to dig up the nests of wasps in order to eat the larvæ, as the ratel — a closely allied South African form — is said to rob the bees of their honey. The male and female are seldom seen together, and are supposed to trace each other by means of the odour of the secretion contained in a glandular pouch beneath the tail. Although the badger does not seek to attack, yet, when driven to bay, its great muscular power and tough hide renders it a formidable antagonist, as was often seen in the days, now happily gone by, when badger-baiting was a favourite amusement of the English peasantry. Fossil remains of the badger have been found in this country, apparently contemporaneous with the extinct cave bear, hyena, and tiger; still more ancient remains are said to have been found in the Red Crag of Suffolk, and should these prove authentic, the European badger, says Professor Owen, “will be the oldest known species of mammal now living on the face of the earth.” The American badger (Meles Labradorica) is a native of California and Texas, and in its habits closely resembles the former species; it seems, however, to be more carnivorous. According to Gray, several species inhabit the southern parts of Asia. When badgers were more abundant than they now are, their skins dressed, with the hair attached, were commonly used for pistol furniture. They are now chiefly valued for the hair, that of the European badger being used in the manufacture of the best shaving-brushes, while the softer hair of the American species is employed for the same purpose, and also for painters pencils. 5197 skins of the American badger were imported into London during 1873.