Mellivora capensis, better known by it’s adorably badass (badorably?) nickname the “honey badger” is one of the internet’s favorite animals. Maybe you’ve seen that YouTube video all about the “crazy nastyass honey badger” or the Cracked article it stole all its research from; either way, you’ve likely heard that the honey badger, simply put, don’t care. Here are 10 lesser known facts about the animal that both confirms this and proves that if a honey badger really wanted to, it could headbutt your house to dust to steal your girlfriend.
10. They’re machete proof
The honey badger is an animal that seemingly has no qualms about attacking animals many times its own size and is supposedly near-impossible to kill in hand-to-badger combat. In fact, farmers in Africa, where the animal lives, note that the only way to guarantee a kill on an angry honey badger getting all up in your business is to hit it square in the face with a machete or shotgun blast. Anything else will merely cause the animal to get angry and go to town on your balls with its giant badger claws. That’s not hyperbole, by the why, and we’ll explain why soon.
The honey badger’s incredibly hardiness mostly stems from it’s thick hide, which is said to be both arrow and spear proof to the point African tribes won’t bother to try hunting them. On top of this, honey badger skin is very loose, allowing the animal to turn around inside its own skin if it’s ever grabbed by the scruff of the neck, a weak point on most lesser animals. The honey badger knows this and has been observed intentionally letting animals like jaguars and lions grab it this way so it can turn around and attack the animal’s exposed throat or eyes. Which may sound like a cheap tactic until you learn that…
9. They go for the balls
For reasons that evolutionary biologists can’t adequately explain, honey badgers seem to have a particular tendency to go for the balls when attacking animals larger than themselves, most notably lions and humans.
Hunters, trackers, and others who make their living exploring the African bush fear the animal above all others and there are many, many anecdotal stories from those who’ve had run-ins with the animal reporting very matter of factly that it seems to instinctively “go for the balls.”
The animal’s reputation for emasculating lions by doing badger combos all over their sacks is so well known that male lions will actively avoid the creature in the wild despite the difference in their size and strength. This doesn’t sit well with the honey badger, who in response goes out of its way to…
8. Attack lions, for no particular reason
In the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in Africa there is an 18-year-old (a relatively old age for the species) friendly honey badger called Stoffel who became something of a celebrity when handlers revealed that he’d repeatedly escaped from his enclosure just to attack a group of lions (which he of course did by biting their balls). Handlers explained that Stoffel’s actions were very stressful for the lions, which attacked him in self-defense, sending the tiny geriatric badger to the hospital. Now for most animals, being mauled by a group of lions would put them off, but Stoffel had his great badger heritage to honor so as soon as he got out of the hospital he once again escaped his enclosure to attack the lions a second time.
When handlers put Stoffel in a new cage purposely built to contain him, he escaped by convincing a female honey badger to open the gate for him because Stoffel is both a lover and a fighter, apparently. When they double-locked the gate, Stoffel climbed a tree and jumped over the fence to go raid the center’s kitchens and attack an eagle. When they removed the trees he dug up a bunch of rocks, rolled them all to one corner of his enclosure in a big pile and used that to scale the fence. This caused his handlers to get pretty annoyed and in response they removed everything from Stoffel’s cage except the bare dirt. Seeing this as a challenge, Stoffel took the dirt rolled it all up into a big ball, hopped the fence again and then broke into his handlers house for good measure.
Oh great, as if being able to break out of any prison wasn’t scary enough, what with the going for the balls thing, honey badgers can also break into places, too. Also, for anyone thinking that Stoffel is an exceptionally smart example of a honey badger, he’s actually pretty typical and even wild honey badgers have been observed…
7. Using tools, mostly to facilitate murder
By the way, that badger in the video right above this? That’s Stoffel, showing off his escape prowess. Anyway, honey badgers like Stoffel are remarkably smart and are one of only a few creatures on Earth known to make use of tools. For example, in the wild honey badgers are known to roll large logs around to use as makeshift steps to climb trees or help scale fences. In captivity honey badgers will carefully observe their enclosure looking for weaknesses, like velociraptors, but more fuzzy.
This has resulted in verifiable examples of honey badgers opening gates that have been bolted shut and in the aforementioned case of Stoffel, using teamwork to bypass security measures. What makes this scarier is that in almost every example of a honey badger using tools it’s noted that the animal almost always did so to either get closer to prey or while in captivity, so that they could go attack other animals, meaning they learned to use tools just to kill and maim things.
6. Cheetahs jack their style
Few creatures on the African savannah would ever willingly or knowingly attack a honey badger, even with numbers on their side. There are documented examples of honey badgers effortlessly backhanding their way through groups of lions without injury because they were in their way. Because of this, many animals will instinctively avoid the distinctive white stripe of the honey badger like a shotgun-wielding rich kid looking to score an Instagram selfie.
The appearance of a honey badger is supposedly so well-known that it’s theorized that cheetahs have specifically evolved to resemble them when born, and are born with a white stripe of fur along their backs. To explain, a baby cheetah is born with a white stripe of fur along its back, something an adult doesn’t have and quickly grows out of and sheds as it matures. A popular theory about why this is the case is that it makes the baby cheetah to resemble an adult honey badger from a distance, which for reasons this article hopefully makes pretty clear, not many animals would ever attack unless desperate.
In other words, there’s strong evidence that cheetahs – an animal that could respond to any threat to its young by sprint-lunging at 60 mph directly at the attacker’s throat – camouflages its young as a small badger because other animals see it as more dangerous to attack that than the baby of the fastest land based predator on Earth.
5. They’re immune to snake bites to the face
Snake venom is no joke, and there are some snakes in Africa that possess venom so potent and deadly it literally causes your flesh to melt away from the bone, like the puff adder. The honey badger is neither bothered or affected by the venom of this snake and will attack it by walking in a straight line towards it and biting its head off, all while shrugging off multiple bites to the face.
The honey badger’s ability to do this lies both in its thick hide, which means most bites fail to penetrate the skin at all, and an evolutionary adaptation that allows its blood to neutralize the venom before it does any lasting damage. What’s more, it has been proposed that the reason honey badgers evolved this way instead of, say, having it ingrained in their DNA to instinctively avoid anything snake-shaped like most other mammals, is because they simply like eating snakes. This is supported by the fact that honey badgers only rarely eat snakes and range for many miles in search of food, suggesting that they could, if they wished, avoid them all together.
Yes, it is genuinely thought that honey badgers specifically evolved with the ability to tank flesh-melting snake bites to the face just in case they felt like chowing down on a snake that day. Speaking of honey badger eating habits…
4. They don’t actually eat honey, they eat bee babies!
Honey badgers are so-named because of their habit of breaking into bee hives. Honey badgers love doing this so much that they’ll walk for dozens of miles and willingly be stung thousands of times just to chow down on some bee juice.
But here’s the thing: although honey badgers do eat honey and are said to enjoy eating it in captivity, in the wild the reason they break open bee hives isn’t for the honey, but to gnosh on the succulent bee larvae that use it for nourishment. If you’re not grasping what that means: honey badgers punch open bee hives just to eat their babies, even though their near omnivorous diet and ability to not feel snake bites means they could easily find food elsewhere. Then again, the animal is able to…
3. Ward off swarms of bees with its farts
When threatened, attacked or otherwise annoyed, a honey badger, in tandem with its long claws and teeth strong enough to crush lion testicles, will release a foul, noxious smell from a special gland in its anus. Similar to the skunk (which is a genetic cousin, though not a direct relative) the honey badger can use this stink both offensively and defensively, depending on the situation.
Along with smelling foul enough to put animals off attacking long enough to score a critical hit to the coin purse, the smell masks the location of the honey badger from insects and “calms” aggressive bees. This allows the honey badger to swoop in and steal their precious honey-soaked larvae before the bees have a chance to react, leaving only behind destruction and a lingering, noxious fart.
2. They named an APC after it, because of course they did
The Ratel IFV is an armored personnel carrier deployed by the South African National Defense Force armed with grenade launchers and a 20 mm autocannon. Standing 9 feet tall with a range of over 600 miles on a full tank of gas, and the ability to shrug off mines and sustained gunfire, the Ratel is 18 tons of fun. It’s also fittingly named after the honey badger as a nod to the animal’s reputation for violently tearing lion balls off.
You see, in Afrikaans the honey badger is known instead as the ratel, in reference to the terrifying, guttural rattling noises made by the animal when threatened. The animal is still known by this name in its native Africa, which led to military engineers deciding to name an armored personnel carrier after it.
1. You can buy Honey Badger-friendly honey
With everything discussed today you’d think that the honey badger would be in a fairly dominant position in the food chain. Although the honey badger is a ferocious animal with balls made of condensed dark matter, it’s for precisely this reason that it’s kind of endangered.
Although not technically an animal considered to be at risk of extinction, the honey badger is so unconcerned with its own safety they often die when less badass animals, like humans, use cheap methods like poison and bear traps to kill them. For this reason we actually don’t know what the average lifespan of a honey badger is because none in the wild live past about 10 years of age, as is wont to happen when you’re an animal that thinks nothing of punching lions in the balls.
Farmers and beekeepers also kill many honey badgers using traps because traditional methods to keep them out (like fences) don’t work. As a result there has been a push recently to protect the honey badger from the only real threat to its own safety (itself) by refusing to support beekeepers who kill or maim them rather than using more humane methods to shoo them away.
Or, to put it another way, the honey badger doesn’t give a crap so hard humans have had to step in to protect it from itself.