Latin Stuff about Badgers
The British Badger is one of the better known badgers
across the world. More correctly, the British Badger should be known as
the European or Eurasian badger - because it lives in Europe and Asia
(including in some parts of China and even Japan).
The Latin name for a "British" badger is Meles meles
(in the Melinae Sub-Family, part of the
Mustelidae family - all members of a group of animals called the
Carnivora). Although this would suggest that the badger is a carnivore,
it is actually an omnivore (meaning that it eats both meat and plants).
Species are given Latin names so that experts can put
different animal species into related groups.
Animals are classed as Mammals (part of the Mammalia
Within this, animals are divided into Carnivores (part
of the Carnivora order of animals).
Within the Carnivores, animals are sub-divided again,
into Mustelids (part of the Mustelidae Sub-family).
Once again the Mustelids are divided into the main
Badgers Sub-family of Melinae.
The different species of true badger are then included
within this Melinae Sub-family. One such species is the
"British" (or Eurasian) badger, called Meles meles according
to its latin Genus.
Other animals in the Mustelids, include weasels, stoats,
otters, polecats, martens, pine martens and skunks. This may seem a bit surprising at first, because most weasel-like
animals have long, thin bodies and long tails. Badgers, of course, look
very different, with their short stocky bodies, short tails and short
powerful legs (they look more like small bears). However, in common with
other weasel-like animals, badgers have long strong claws on their front
feet - though these are designed for digging, and not scampering through
Origin of Meles meles
The origin of Meles meles is not entirely certain. Even the most
useful reference work on the subject is the Badgers (written by Ernest
Neal and Chris Cheeseman) is a little sketchy.
This book suggests that primitive badger-forms existed as long ago as
4 million years - possibly coming from the Pliocene genus Melodon in
China. The original Meles line then evolved from the temporate forests
of Asia, spreading West into Europe.
The earliest fossil of the genus Meles is Thoral's badger (Meles Thorali) and was in France at Saint-Villier, near Lyons, and is perhaps
2 million years old. Other similar fossils were found in China, so this
species was probably very widespread. By the early to middle
Pleistocene, Europe was inhabited by badgers similar to the modern
species. These are now referred to as the sub-species Meles meles atavus
NOTE: It should be seen from the above diagram, that Honey
Badgers are not really badgers; as they are not part of the same sub-family as the
However, Honey Badgers are so similar in form and
habits and share the same common name, so they are included here. It
seems a shame to exclude them, as they are very nearly as cute as
"our" British badger; and are persecuted in Africa.