They have a wide habitat tolerance and are widespread across Southern Africa. Honey Badgers can be found throughout Africa, Arabia and Western Asia, including India. Even though they are widely distributed they are not common anywhere and are even considered rare in some areas.
They spend most of their time on the ground, but are good climbers when the need arises. They will use rock crevices for shelter, but are powerful diggers and will dig refuges for themselves. They dig up a lot of their prey, such as rodents and scorpions. They can dig up to 60 holes per night while looking for food. They eat a wide variety of food, but invertebrates and rodents are the most important part of their diet. They are not dependant on water. They often feed together with some species of birds or Black Backed Jackal.
Honey Badgers are usually found alone, but they also walk in pairs or small family groups. They often move along tracks and roads. They are mostly active at night (nocturnal), but can also sometimes be found active during anytime of the day. In the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park they change from being nocturnal in summer to being diurnal in winter. This is done to cope with the very high temperature on summer days and very low temperatures on winter nights.
The badgers have been named the most fearless animal in the Guinness Book of World Records. It is also believed that Cheetah cubs mimic the appearance of a Honey Badger as part of their survival strategy.
Honey Badgers are courageous animals. They usually keep to themselves and are shy and retiring in nature, but they can occasionally become extremely aggressive (without provoking them). These animals are very tough and and can become very aggressive. They will even attack an Elephant if they feel threatened. They can produce a foul-smelling excretion from a pair of anal glads. However the Honey Badger is not as prone as the Striped Polecat to use this defence mechanism and will much more likely attack its aggressor. Their skin is very thick and loose. It is said that if a dog bites any part of it the animal can turn around inside its skin and bite back (this is regarded to be true within certain limits). They always come of best when attacked by dog and the dog's teeth seldom penetrate their skin.
Honey Badgers appear to have some level of resistance against scorpion and bee stings. They also appear to have a remarkable resistance against many extremely venomous snakes. After being bitten by a snake that would kill most large animals they appear to only experience some degree of pain and then just sleep it off. Waking up after a few hours without any serious side effects.
During intraspecific fighting each individual tries to invite the other to bite first, because which ever one bites first is at a disadvantage. The second individual will lunge at the first one to bite and aim for the softer skin of the abdomen. It has been recorded that in captivity normally docile individuals will develop "fury moods" and become dangerous, but will just as suddenly return to being calm and docile.
The name Honey Badger comes from their habit of plundering bee hives for the honey and bee larvae. Their other common name is “Ratel” which is Afrikaans for rattle or honeycomb.
Chris & Tilde Stuart (2008). Veldgids tot Soogdiere van Suider-Afrika. Kaapstad: Struik Uitgewers. 142.
John D. Skinner & Christian T. Chimimba (2005). The Mammals of the Southern African Subregion. Cape Town: Cambridge University Press. 501-504.