The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Badger
BADGER (meles, Cuv.), a carnivorous plantigrade quadruped of the order mammalia, originally classified with the bears, raccoons, and coatis by Linnæus, but separated by more recent naturalists. The badgers have 4 false molars in the upper and 8 in the under jaw, 2 and 4 on each side respectively, followed by a carnassier and a single tuberculous tooth of large size. They are the least carnivorous of the family to which they belong, with the single exception of the bears. They have 5 toes, before and behind, deeply buried in the flesh, and provided with powerful, compressed claws, adapted for burrowing in the earth, or digging for roots, which are their principal food. The body is long, flat, and compressed; the head small and flat, with an elongated snout; the legs sturdy and powerful; the tail short. Below the anus there is a slit, from which exudes a very fetid oleaginous matter, similar in character, though not in odor, to that of the civets and genets. The badgers are inoffensive, timid, nocturnal animals, sleeping during the day in their burrows, which are curiously constructed, with a single entrance, but with many different chambers within, terminating in a circular apartment, well lined with dry grass or hay, in which the male dwells alone, eschewing the company even of his female. The badger is a very cleanly animal, carefully removing everything that might become offensive from his dwelling, never depositing his excrements near its entrance, and instantly evacuating it in case of its being polluted by any other animal. The flesh is in some places much esteemed as an article of food, and it is usually very fat. The badger makes a vigorous defence when attacked; and as its bite is terrible, it requires a brave and powerful terrier dog to drag it from its burrow. —
The geographical distribution of the badger extends over the whole of Europe, northern and central Asia, and the northern parts of North America. It does not extend into Africa or South America, in the former of which continents it is represented by the rattel (gulo mellivora), as it is in the latter by the various kinds of moufette (mephitis). In Australia there exists no plantigrade animal of any kind. In the eastern peninsula and the Indian isles the place of the badger is supplied by the telagon (mydaus meliceps). This genus contains at the most only three species, and some writers have reduced it to a single one, asserting that the American badger is a mere variety of the European, and the Indian a distinct genus; for neither of which opinions does there appear to be any foundation. 1. The common badger of Europe (M. vulgaris or taxus) is about the size of a moderately large dog, but longer and fatter in the body, and lower on the legs. The head is long and pointed, the ears so short as to be concealed by the fur. The tail barely reaches to the mid-thigh. The hair is long and coarse, except that on the belly and breast, which is short and resembles fur. The head is white, with a black chin and two black bands passing backward from the corners of the mouth, including the ears and eyes, and meeting at the nape. Every hair of the upper part of the badger has three distinct colors, yellowish white at the roots, black at the middle, and ash-gray at the top, which gives a uniform sandy gray color to all its upper parts. The throat, breast, belly, and limbs are jet black. The female badger produces three, four, or five young in the early spring, suckles them for about five weeks, and then gradually accustoms them to shift for themselves. When taken early the young cubs are easily domesticated. Badgers are hunted in some parts of England by moonlight, principally for their hides, which, when properly dressed, are held to make the best pistol furniture. Their hair is of great value for shaving brushes and for paint brushes. The hind quarters, when salted, are good eating, but are not much in use in England. In China badgers' hams are a choice dainty. 2. The American badger (M. Labradorica) measures about 2½ feet from the snout to the origin of the tail, which extends to 6 inches more. Its head is less attenuated than that of the European species, though equally elongated. The claws of its fore feet are much longer; its tail is shorter, its fur of a much softer and more silky character, and its colors different. It frequents the sandy plains skirting the foot of the Rocky mountains, so far north as the Peace river, and abounds in the country watered by the Missouri; but its southern and western limits have not been defined. It is a far more carnivorous animal than its European congener, and is also believed to hibernate during the winter months, which habit is not common in either of the other species. It preys on the marmots of the plains, the spermophilus Hoodii and Richardsonii, and on all the smaller quadrupeds, as field mice and the like, and also feeds on vegetable matters. It extends into Mexico, where it is called illacoyotl or coyotlhumuli; and very fine specimens have been sent from California. 3. The Indian badger, balisaur, or sand bear (M. or arctonyx collaris), is about the size of the European badger, but stands much higher on its legs, and is distinguished by its attenuated muzzle, its truncated snout resembling that of a hog, and its short tail. Its body somewhat resembles that of the bear; and when attacked it sits erect like that animal, and seems to possess a similar power in its arms and claws, which are truly formidable. In color and the nature of its fur it closely resembles the European species. The markings of the head are exactly like those of the English badger, but its throat is white, and the black bands from the muzzle to the ear, instead of meeting at the nape, encircle the white of the throat, forming a distinct gorget.