European Badger

European Badger

Eurasian badger, European badger

Meles meles
Population size
Life Span
6-16 yrs
Top speed
30 km/h
10-12 kg
56-90 cm

The European badger (Meles meles ) is a badger species in the family Mustelidae native to almost all of Europe. It is classified as least concern on the IUCN Red List as it has a wide range and a large stable population size, and is thought to be increasing in some regions. Several subspecies are recognized with the nominate subspecies (M. m. meles ) predominating in most of Europe. In Europe, where no other badger species commonly occurs, it is generally just called the "badger".

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The European badger is a powerfully built, black, white, brown, and grey animal with a small head, a stocky body, small, black eyes, and short tail. Its weight varies, being 7–13 kg (15–29 lb) in spring, but building up to 15–17 kg (33–37 lb) in autumn before the winter sleep period. It is nocturnal and is a social, burrowing animal that sleeps during the day in one of several setts in its territorial range. These burrows have multiple chambers and entrances, and are extensive systems of underground passages of 35–81 m (115–266 ft) length. They house several badger families that use these setts for decades. Badgers are fussy over the cleanliness of their burrow, carrying in fresh bedding and removing soiled material, and they defecate in latrines strategically situated outside their setts or en route to other setts.

Although classified as a carnivore, the European badger feeds on a wide variety of plant and animal foods, feeding on earthworms, large insects, small mammals, carrion, cereals, and tubers. Litters of up to five cubs are produced in spring. The young are weaned a few months later, but usually remain within the family group. The European badger has been known to share its burrow with other species such as rabbits, red foxes, and raccoon dogs, but it can be ferocious when provoked, a trait which has been exploited in the now-illegal blood sport of badger-baiting. Badgers can be carriers of bovine tuberculosis, which also affects cattle. In England, culling of badger populations is used to attempt to reduce the incidence of bovine tuberculosis in cattle, although the efficacy of this practice is highly disputed, and badger culls are widely considered cruel and inhumane.

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Not a migrant


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The European badger has a powerfully built body, short tail, and short, solid limbs. The skull is heavy and large with a prominent sagittal crest and short, triangular paroccipital processes. Their teeth include prominent canines, flattened molars, and small incisors. The European badgers are easily recognizable due to dark stripes, stretching from their nose to the eyes and ears, and separated by a white stripe in the middle. The coat on their back is grizzled gray with individual hairs, being white at the base and darker at the tip. Venter coat is usually dark grey or black in color.



They are found throughout most of Europe as well as western Asia. The area of their distribution extends southward to the southeastern coast of China and northward, reaching the Russian Arctic Circle and Finland. They live in a wide variety of habitats such as scrub, hedges, riverine areas, farmland, grassland, steppes, and semi-deserts. However, their preferred habitat is a conifer, deciduous and mixed woodlands, adjacent to open fields.

European Badger habitat map

Climate zones

European Badger habitat map
European Badger
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Habits and Lifestyle

The Eurasian badger is a nocturnal animal. The badgers are most active at sunrise and sunset. Badgers are highly social animals, gathering in clans - family groups that may include up to 12 individuals and only one dominant breeding pair. However, during periods of food shortage, some individuals, belonging to clans, isolate themselves, leading solitary life. Throughout the territory of each clan, there are multiple setts - large, communal burrows, constructed by members of the clan. The main sett is usually situated in the center of the clan's territory and contains more adult individuals, compared to other setts.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

They are omnivores, consuming food of both plant and animal origin. The usual diet of the Eurasian badger includes fruit, earthworms, insects, frogs, lizards, eggs, small mammals as well as carrion.

Mating Habits

year-round, peaks in February-May and August-October
9-12 months
1-6 cubs
8-10 months
kit, cub

European badgers don't have a certain mating system. Thus, male badgers are usually monogamous, mating once in a lifetime. However, female badgers can have polygamous behavior, mating with a number of males. Meanwhile, males do not restrict access of other males to their mates, but fiercely defend the mates from potential predators. They breed throughout the year with two peak seasons, occurring in February-May and August-October. The gestation period lasts 9-12 months, yielding 1-6 cubs with 3 on average. At the age of 2,5 months, the cubs are weaned and leave the den when they are about 8-10 months old. Reproductive maturity is reached at about 1 year of age.


Population threats

Throughout their range, these animals are threatened by fragmentation and loss of habitat. They are persecuted due to being pest crops and disease vectors. In addition, the badgers are often hunted for sport and hit by cars.

Population number

According to IUCN, the European badger is common and widespread throughout its range but the total number of their population is unknown. However, in 1990, the estimated badger population in Russia was about 30,000 individuals. The population of this species is currently stable, and on the IUCN Red List, it is classified as Least Concern (LC).

Ecological niche

The major part of their diet consists of invertebrates. Meanwhile, consuming insects, badgers control a large number of insect species' populations. On the other hand, due to eating fruit, they become important seed dispersers throughout the area of their range. According to one study, only a small percentage of seeds are damaged, when ingested by badgers.


There are several accounts of European badgers being tamed. Tame badgers can be affectionate pets, and can be trained to come to their owners when their names are called. They are easily fed, as they are not fussy eaters, and will instinctively unearth rats, moles and young rabbits without training, though they do have a weakness for pork. Although there is one record of a tame badger befriending a fox, they generally do not tolerate the presence of cats and dogs, and will chase them.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Males are referred to as "boars" while females are called "sows". Young badgers are known as cubs.
  • Their name originates from the French ‘bêcheur’, which means "digger"
  • In Wales, this animal is called ‘moch daear’, meaning ‘earth pig’.
  • They are able to eat hedgehogs due to having an extremely thick skin and long claws.
  • They can easily find rabbit nests and dig for grubs under the surface due to having a keen sense of smell.
  • They construct setts - underground burrow systems. These setts along with regular paths, that badgers use on the ground, can exist for centuries.
  • Badgers are amazingly clean animals due to using communal toilets. Their toilets consist of shallow pits and are located away from the setts, on the edge of their territory. Moreover, these animals do not bring food into their setts.
  • They enjoy eating insects, bluebell bulbs as well as elderberries that grow near to their setts. Also, they normally eat a large amount of earthworms - up to several hundred earthworms per night.


1. European Badger Wikipedia article -
2. European Badger on The IUCN Red List site -

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