Badgers are small, carnivorous mammals in the family of Mustelidae. Most importantly, with 66-70 species, this family is diverse.
In addition, with dozens of different animals known as badgers, many of which are not related, defining what is a badger and what is like a badger can be more difficult than most people think.
For example, the American badger and the honey badger look similar but are not.
Hog badgers are “badgers” in name, but most scientists don’t call them badgers. And, ferret badgers look more like their cousins, the polecat, than a traditional badger.
However, all of these species have much in common. For example, they eat opportunistically and will hunt or eat vegetation, insects, or honey.
In addition, they’re all heavily built, low to the ground, and shaggy. And, almost all of them live in forests, which give them places to hide.
Officially there are 11-14 species of badger, depending on whether you include hog badgers or not, spread across four genera. However, if you look at animals that are similar to badgers in appearance, the list includes over 50 species.
Scientific Name (genus): Mustela
Why They Are Like Badgers: Weasels are one of the most similar animals to badgers, with similar musk glands, appearance, and fur.
Weasels are small, slender Mustela animals and are closely related to badgers.
While they are slimmer and thinner than most badgers, they share most other traits. For example, weasels and badgers are in the same family.
Weasels also have similar habits and feeding patterns to badgers. However, weasels are much more active as hunters than badgers.
Where the badger feeds primarily on insects and earthworms, sometimes eating hundreds in a night, the weasel is more likely to catch and eat rodents by going into their tunnels and dens.
Officially, there are 17 different weasels, some of which are also called polecats.
n addition, some look so similar to ferrets as to be indistinguishable. Some, like the American Ermine and Yellow-bellied weasel, also have short fur.
All weasels are also longer than badgers. In addition, they’re normally smaller about a foot long, and don’t normally weigh more than about 10 ounces. That’s a large contrast with badgers, which can weigh over 35 lbs.
Scientific Name (genus): Mustelinae/Ictonyx
Why They Are Like Badgers: Like weasels, polecats are extremely genetically similar to badgers. In addition, many of them look similar, although you won’t mistake one for the other.
Polecats include a variety of related carnivorous mammals, all of them related to badgers, stoats, and weasels.
There are 6 species of polecats, spread across three genera. Of these, only one, the American polecat or Black-footed ferret, is native to the United States.
The rest are native to Europe, Asia, and the African continent. In addition, most of them look very similar, with many looking like a typical ferret.
Despite being small, polecats hunt larger rodents and rabbits than weasels do.
In fact, rabbits make up most of the diet of the most common species, the European polecat. That makes them markedly different from badgers, which are primarily opportunistic feeders and diggers.
In addition, polecats are smaller, slimmer, and set closer to the ground than badgers. So, you won’t mistake one for the other.
However, they also share musk or scent glands, which are used for warning off predators, scaring predators, and marking territory.
Scientific Name (genus): Galictis
Why They Are Like Badgers: Grisons look like short-haired badgers or skunks with unusual markings. If you don’t know they aren’t badgers, you might not be able to tell.
The grison includes two species of mustelid, both native to South and Central America. Of the two, the “Lesser Grison” looks more like a polecat or Marten, and the “Greater Grison” looks more like a skunk or badger.
Both are dark in color, but the greater grison is almost completely black. It’s also an average of about 2 feet long and weighs up to 8.5 lbs. That makes grison significantly smaller than most badgers.
However, they look very similar in appearance, with a similar head, tail, and build. Grisons, unlike badgers, normally have short coats.
In addition, the lesser grison features a striking color variation, with a vibrant black face and chest, a white streak on the top of the head, and a grey-brown body.
Grisons are also extremely omnivorous, eating everything from fruit and insects to small mammals such as rabbits and mice. They’re also one of the few animals where the neck is wider than the head.
Scientific Name (family): Herpestidae
Why They Are Like Badgers: Mongoose are very closely related to badgers and some even look very similar.
The mongoose family is a very diverse group of carnivores, containing 34 species. These range from the common mongoose to the meerkat and the Indian Grey Mongoose. Of these, only the latter looks anything like a badger.
The Javan mongoose is even more so, although it has short fur, unlike the badger.
However, mongooses have a lot in common with badgers. For example, they use scent glands to scare away and repel predators. Both are also nocturnal and omnivorous.
Mongooses are normally more omnivorous than badgers, with food including birds, small rodents, insects, fruit, plants, and eggs.
In addition, almost all mongooses are found in the African continent, southeastern Asia, and the Iberian Peninsula.
Scientific Name (genus): Martes
Why They Are Like Badgers: Martens are closely related to badgers and often resemble smaller, sleeker versions of the same animal.
Martens are Mustelidae adapted to live in the northern hemisphere. All species live in coniferous and deciduous forests with snowfall in the winter, giving martens a range from the U.S. and Canada to Russia, and much of Europe.
These small carnivores are also fairly diverse, with marked differences in color pattern, size, and habits.
For example, the Sable and Beech marten live almost exclusively in trees and are cat-like in appearance. The Japanese Marten and European Pine Marten are stockier and more likely to be seen on the ground.
All martens eat small mammals like birds, mice, and other rodents. This means they hunt more and are more likely to have ecological impact than badgers.
However, like other Mustelidae, they share scent glands, which are an important part of predator defense and territory marking.
Scientific Name: Pekania pennanti
Why They Are Like Badgers: Fishers are small, stocky Mustelidae that resemble a cross between a badger and a polecat.
Fishers are Mustelidae that are endemic to the northern United States and Canada. These small carnivores are physically similar to badgers in appearance but normally have a smaller and slimmer build.
In addition, they’re normally about the same size as a housecat, but can be as large as 47 inches long and weigh 13 pounds.
Like other, similar carnivores, Fishers are opportunistic hunters and will hunt for small rodents, will eat carrion, and will eat insects, nuts, and mushrooms. They’re also one of the only animals known to successfully kill and eat porcupines.
Fishers spend most of their time on the ground. However, they will climb and often sleep in trees at night to avoid predators.
7. Ferret Badgers
Scientific Name (genus): Melogale (Genus)
Why They Are Like Badgers: Ferret badgers look like a cross between a polecat and a badger, with badger-like markings and build.
Ferret-Badgers are one of the most similar Mustelidae to badgers.
In fact, these small carnivores share many parts of their appearance with their namesakes. For example, most have white and black patterns and striping commonly associated with badgers.
In addition, all ferret badgers are shorter to the ground, stocky, and heavily built like badgers. On the other hand, they normally have shorter hair and lack the shaggy ruff or top coat many badgers have.
Plus, with lengths averaging about 14-16 inches (not including tail) and average weights of 4-8 pounds, ferret badgers are much smaller than true badgers.
Otherwise, they share a lot, including burrowing, an omnivorous diet, and scent glands for marking territory and for defense.
Scientific Name (subfamily): Lutrinae
Why They Are Like Badgers: Otters are in the same family and share many of the characteristics of badgers.
Most people wouldn’t associate badgers with otters, but not only are these two groups related, they share a lot of traits and often share diets.
However, all otters live in or near water most of the time, which is a marked difference between badgers.
Living in water also means there are many differences between otters and badgers. For example, otters produce more oil to prevent their coats from getting wet.
Otters are also often found in large groups while most other Mustelidae are solitary.
Finally, with the largest otters weighing close to 100 lbs., otters can be much larger than badgers. They also have high caloric needs to ensure they stay warm in water, with most eating 15-25% of their body weight in fish or marine life each day.
Scientific Name: Gulo gulo
Why They Are Like Badgers: Wolverines look like a cross between a badger and a bear, with similar size and build to the badger.
Wolverines consist of a single species of Mustelidae native to the Northern Hemisphere. This means wolverines are found in Alaska, Canada, Russia, and much of the Himalayas.
In addition, wolverines are often very large, with heights of up to 18 inches at the shoulder. However, they compare very similarly to badgers in weight, with most weighing 18-40 lbs.
While wolverines have a reputation for ferocity, they are primarily scavengers. Most will also eat any small mammals they can find, with some having been known to take down lynxes and coyotes.
Like other Mustelidae, wolverines are omnivorous and will eat berries, roots, and nuts.
Many also feature extremely shaggy coats, which can vary from completely brown to white or include patches. However, unlike badgers, this coat is uniform, with no longer patches of hair on the top.
Scientific Name (family): Mephitidae
Why They Are Like Badgers: Skunks look remarkably similar to many badgers, with similar hair and coloration. However, they aren’t closely related.
Skunks include 10 species of small carnivores native to the Americas, with most in Central and North America.
All skunks are marked by black and white fur with patches or stripes of pattern. In addition, all skunks have musk glands, which they can use to spray a strong odor at attackers to repel those attackers.
Many also look remarkably similar to badgers, with similar coloration and patterns. However, skunks tend to be darker and with more white. In addition, skunks have longer legs, slimmer faces, and weigh less.
Still, some skunks can weigh as much as 40 pounds. Others are over 2 feet in length. This means you may find skunks that are similar in size to a badger.
Almost all skunks are extremely omnivorous and share the badger’s habit of digging for earthworms and insect larvae.
11. Stink Badgers
Scientific Name (genus): Mydaus
Why They Are Like Badgers: Stink badgers look so much like badgers that people thought they were, until DNA analysis placed them with skunks.
Stink badgers are the closest living relative to the skunk. However, they look more like badgers, often bridging the gap between skunks and badgers in appearance.
Like true skunks, stink badgers can emit a foul-smelling liquid to repel predators.
In addition, stink badgers are native to Indonesia and Malaysia. This means you’ll almost never see them near true badgers or true skunks.
However, they share a lot of other things in common with badgers. For example, they almost entirely eat ground-dwelling insects, eggs, and carrion.
Most are also built very close to the ground which gives them a badger-like appearance. However, both species have relatively short hair.
Badgers are unique animals, and no other animal looks exactly like it. However, many animals look very similar. In addition, over 30 other animals share the badger’s combination of diet, build, and musk or scent glands. While size, hunting habits, and geographic location vary considerably, there are dozens of mammals that are very similar to badgers in surprising ways.