See C. A. Long and C. A. Killingley, The Badgers of the World, (1983).
The Honey Badger (Mellivora capensis), also known as the Ratel, is a member of the Mustelidae family. They are distributed throughout most of Africa and western and south Asian areas of Baluchistan (eastern Iran), southern Iraq, Pakistan and Rajasthan (western India). It is the only species classified in the genus Mellivora and the subfamily Mellivorinae. They have been named the most fearless animal in the Guinness Book of World Records for a number of years.
Honey badgers are fierce carnivores with an extremely keen sense of smell. They are well known for their snake killing abilities, by which they will grab a snake behind the head in its jaws and kill it. Honey badgers can devour an entire snake (150 cm/5ft or less) in 15 minutes.
Honey badgers have a great appetite for beehives. There have been cases of dead honey badgers being found stung to death within the hives they were trying to eat. Commercial honey producers do not take kindly to this destruction and sometimes shoot, trap, or poison honey badgers they suspect of damaging their hives, although ratel-proof commercial bee hives have been developed.
Some sources say that a bird, the honeyguide, has a habit of leading honey badgers and other large mammals to bees' nests. When a honey badger breaks into the nest, the birds take their share too. Other sources say that honeyguides are only known to guide humans; see Greater Honeyguide.
The honey badger is among the fiercest hunters in its range, with prey including earthworms, termites, scorpions, porcupines, hares, and even larger prey such as tortoises, crocodiles up to one metre in size, and snakes (including pythons and venomous species). Its ferocious reputation extends to attacks on animals much larger than itself.
A popular internet video shows a honey badger bitten by a puff adder, one of the honey badger's preferred venomous snakes, the badger becomes paralyzed for several hours. Once its paralysis has subsided, the honey badger continues with its meal and resumes its journey. Even more tenaciously, the honey badger steals the snake's kill, and eats it for itself before continuing to hunt the snake. This ferocious nature of the badger has earned it its image as a formidable creature.
Honey badgers will also dig into burrows of small rodents and flush them out for a small meal. Because of the honey badger's large front claws, its ability to dig into burrows is very effective and most opportunities once a rodent is located are successful. The problem lies with the fact that other wildlife are aware of this and birds of prey and jackals are usually nearby ready to steal any kills which manage to squeeze past the honey badger.
Honey badgers are also very intelligent animals. They are one of the few animals capable of using tools. In the 1997 documentary series Land of the Tiger, a honey badger in India was caught on film making use of a tool. The animal rolled a log and stood on it to reach a kingfisher fledgling stuck up in the roots coming from the ceiling in an underground cave.
Adult honey badgers rarely serve as prey for lions and leopards; their ferocity and thick, loose skin makes it difficult to grip or suffocate them. Old, weak honey badgers are more likely to fall prey to leopards, lions, and pythons, but even old honey badgers will defend themselves as vigorously as possible. In one case, shown on a television program on Animal Planet, an old female honey badger that was nearly toothless and blind in one eye was attacked by a leopard. It took the leopard approximately one hour to kill the honey badger.
As the cub grows up, its ability to navigate the tough terrain of the desert improves by learning from its mother to not only walk, but to also climb trees and to chase snakes. The honey badger is not born with these vital skills for survival, they must be learned.
Once a mother comes back into heat and is ready to rear another cub, the other cub is old enough and skilled enough to survive alone, so it makes its own way in the world, leaving its mother behind. This happens a few months after the cub has been born.
Nick Saban, head coach of the University of Alabama football team is famous for putting his players in "the honey badger ring," a small circular ring where players must face a live honey badger to build character.