Day 184–All about Badgers

A couple of years ago, Randall made a name for badgers in pop culture:

 

I recently met one of the friendliest badgers out there in Yellowstone:

 

“Did you bring me any sausages?”

 

Badgers are short-legged omnivores in the weasel family, Mustelidae. The 11 species of badger are grouped in three subfamilies: Melinae (9 Eurasian badgers), Mellivorinae (the ratel aka honey badger) and Taxideinae (the American badger).

These animals have a fierce bite.  You know all those urban myths about pit bull jaws locking?  Well, meet the real pit bull of the animal world! A badger’s lower jaws is articulated to the upper by means of transverse condyles firmly locked into long cavities of the skull, so dislocation of the jaw is all but impossible. This enables the badgers to maintain their hold with the utmost tenacity, but limits jaw movement to hinging open and shut, or sliding from side to side without the twisting movement possible for the jaws of most mammals.

Badgers have rather short, fat bodies, with short legs built for digging.  The European badger is one of the largest; the American badger, the hog badger and the honey badger are generally a little smaller and lighter. They weigh around 20–24 pounds on average, with some Eurasian badgers weighing in at around 40 pounds.

The derivation of the word “badger”, originally applied to the European badger (Meles meles), is uncertain. It possibly comes from the French word bêcheur (digger).

The Oxford English Dictionary states it probably derives from “badge” + -ard, referring to the white mark borne like a badge on its forehead.

It is possibly related to the Romanian viezure (“badger”), a word of uncertain etymology, believed to be inherited from Dacian/Thracian and related to the Albanian vjedhullë (“badger”, “thief”) and vjeth (“to steal”), and the Slavic jazvrŭ (“hedgehog”; cf. Croatian jazavac “badger”).

The less common name “brock” (Old English: brocc), (Scots: brock) is a Celtic loanword (cf. Gaelic broc and Welsh broch, from Proto-Celtic *brokko) meaning “grey”.

The Proto-Germanic term was *þahsu- (cf. German Dachs, Dutch das, Norwegian svintoks; Early Modern English: dasse), probably from the PIE root *tek’- “to construct,” so the badger would have been named after its digging of setts (tunnels); the Germanic term *þahsu- became taxus or taxō, –ōnis in Latin glosses, replacing mēlēs (“marten” or “badger”), and from these words the common Romance terms for the animal evolved (Italian tasso, French tesson/taisson/tasson—now blaireau is more common—, Catalan toixó, Spanish tejón, Portuguese texugo).

A male badger is a boar, a female is a sow, and a young badger is a cub. A collective name suggested for a group of badgers is a cete,but badger colonies are more often called clans.  Badger dens are called setts.
Badgers are found throughout most of the world, most notably missing from South America and Australia.

 

 

Now, the most important badger topic today is the badger culling in Great Britain.  Badgers were once hunted ferociously in Britain, and that barbaric practice was put to an end by the passing of a specific law to protect them.  Unfortunately, under a new plan, up to 100,000 badgers in the UK will be lured out of their setts at night and shot by trained snipers, all due to an unproven link between badgers and the spread of the bacterium Mycobacterium bovis, which threatens cattle populations.

Appalled? Me too!  Visit the Badger Trust to see what you can do!

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