Wolverines and honey badgers look like adorable creatures from afar. However, they are two of the most aggressive mammals.
Both of them are members of the weasel family, together with otters and other relatives. They don’t live in the same geographic range, but should they come together, who would win a fight?
Honey badgers are notorious for their aggressiveness, but they are smaller and weaker than wolverines. They also have a weaker bite of 1,300 PSI. Wolverines can bite with a force up to 1,720 PSI. Wolverines are also larger and faster than honey badgers. In a fight, all odds would be in their favor.
The table below shows a list of strength facts and differences between honey badgers vs. wolverines*:
|Body length||26 to 34 inches||23 to 30 inches|
|Weight||20 to 66 pounds||13 to 30 pounds|
|Bite force||1,720 PSI||1,300 PSI|
|Speed||30 mph||19 mph|
|Strike force||Up to 1,200 lb.-ft./s||Up to 570 lb.-ft./s|
|Behavior||Solitary; aggressive||Solitary; aggressive|
|Diet||Primarily carnivore||Primarily carnivore|
|Geographic range||North America, Northern Eurasia||Africa, Asia, Middle East|
|Habitat||Forests, mountains, tundra, taiga||Savannas, grasslands, rainforests, forests, deserts, mountains|
|Conservation status||Least concern||Least concern|
*Data in the table was gathered from scientific publications, wildlife magazines, news outlets, research papers, and other official sources cited throughout the article.
Size, strength, and performance information included in this table and throughout this article refers to wolverines and honey badgers in general. Specifics can vary from one subspecies to another.
11 Differences Between Wolverine Vs. Honey Badgers
Wolverines and honey badgers belong to the same family, Mustelidae, but to different genera.
Each mammal is the only member of its genus; wolverines (Gulo gulo) are members of the Gulo genus. Honey badgers (Mellivora capensis) are members of the Mellivora genus.
Both wolverines and honey badgers are further divided into several subspecies. In total, there are six wolverine and 12 honey badger subspecies.
2. Body Length
Size matters when two opponents fight in the wild, and wolverines have the upper hand here. They are larger than honey badgers, measuring between 26 and 34 inches in length.
Honey badgers grow to lengths up to 30 inches, and even though the length difference isn’t major, they are a lot shorter.
In fact, honey badgers reach shoulder heights between nine and 11 inches. Wolverines can grow up to 17 inches tall.
Body mass is often related to size, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that wolverines are also heavier.
Most wolverines weigh between 22 and 40 pounds, even though larger males can weigh 66 pounds or more.
Honey badgers are ten to 30 pounds lighter, weighing between 13 and 30 pounds on average. There are no reports of heavier honey badgers ever recorded.
4. Bite Force
Another area where wolverines trump is the bite force.
These two mammals belong to the same family and have identical dental formulas and similar skulls. However, their jaw forces couldn’t be more different.
Researchers found that honey badgers can muster a bite force up to 1,300 PSI. That’s pretty impressive, considering that both lions and tigers have weaker bites.
However, they are no match for wolverines, which can bite with a force of over 1,700 PSI.
This is one of the most powerful bites in the animal kingdom, only slightly weaker than the bite force of hippopotamuses, which have the most powerful bite among mammals.
Speed-wise, the wolverines win the round, too. They can sprint at speeds up to 30 miles per hour.
Meanwhile, honey badgers are about two times slower, only reaching speeds up to 19 miles per hour.
However, they can only maintain that performance for short bursts, their speed dropping to around 16 miles per hour for longer runs.
Both honey badgers and wolverines are also excellent swimmers and can climb trees.
6. Strike Force
Honey badgers and wolverines can’t throw punches the way wrestlers do, but they can hit the opponent with a force equivalent to their body mass multiplied by speed at the moment of the impact.
This force will obviously vary from individual to individual and situation to situation. For comparison purposes, though, we considered the top weight and speed for each species.
According to these calculations, wolverines can hit with a force of up to 1,200 lb.-ft./s. Honey badgers are around two times weaker, managing an impact force up to 570 lb.-ft./s.
As members of the weasel family, wolverines and honey badgers are both solitary animals. Males and females only come together for mating purposes, and the only groups are formed by females and their dependent young.
Like most weasels, wolverines are bold and aggressive hunters. However, they aren’t particularly aggressive when not looking for food unless they feel threatened.
Honey badgers also have a reputation for being aggressive and are known for attacking large apex predators, such as lions. This trait could give honey badgers an advantage in a fight against wolverines.
Honey badgers are often thought of as bear-like creatures that eat honey and maybe plants.
The truth is that they are primarily carnivores and owe their name to the fact that they like bee larvae found in hives – they also eat the honey while they’re at it.
Honey and bee larvae aside, honey badgers are agile hunters that typically feed on terrestrial vertebrates. Small mammals, birds, and carrion are some of the main food sources.
Similar to honey badgers, wolverines are primarily carnivores. However, they prefer large ungulates rather than small mammals.
Wolverines are generally capable of bringing down prey that is up to five times larger than their own body mass, including reindeer, elk, or moose.
However, like most carnivores, wolverines are opportunistic. Not only does their diet vary with the season, but they are also known as scavengers.
Both mammals also eat eggs, reptiles, and even fruits or root tubers in periods of scarce food availability.
As aggressive predators themselves, wolverines and honey badgers have few natural predators.
Honey badgers are mostly preyed on by lions and leopards; however, the big cats typically only attack old and weak honey badgers.
Wolverines can be targeted by wolves, bears, and mountain lions.
However, adult wolverines are generally capable of defending themselves, and these predators mostly prey on young and inexperienced or old and weak wolverines.
9. Geographic Range
While these two mammals are part of the same family, they live in different geographic ranges.
Wolverines are native to North America and northern Eurasia, their range spanning the boreal zone of the northern hemisphere.
They are typically found in Alaska and northern Canada, as well as the mountainous regions along the Pacific Coast.
In Eurasia, wolverines are mostly concentrated in Scandinavia and Russia.
Honey badgers occur in Africa, Asia, and the Indian subcontinent.
In Africa, they can be found all over the continent, from Morocco to the southernmost tip. They are also present in western India and western Asia, in countries including Turkmenistan, Nepal, and Afghanistan.
Small populations are also concentrated in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Different geographic ranges mean different habitat preferences.
Honey badgers occur in warm climate regions and are typically found in forests, rainforests, and mountains. However, they are also found in savannas, grasslands, and deserts, often inhabiting the same areas as lions or tigers.
Wolverines also live in forests and mountainous areas. However, they are found in tundra and taiga areas, as well as other arctic and subalpine habitats.
11. Conservation Status
Both wolverines and honey badgers are listed as “least concerned” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which means they are not threatened with extinction.
However, the populations of both mammals have been decreasing in recent years.
Scientists have observed a decrease in the wolverine population in regions experiencing a sharp decline in the snowpack.
Presumably, this happens because the deep snow and frosty conditions can provide wolverines with more food sources, including large ungulate carcasses.
Honey badger numbers are also declining, most likely due to habitat use by humans. Land use often determines honey badgers to settle in poor habitat areas where food availability is scarce.
Who Would Win A Fight?
Living in different parts of the world, honey badgers and wolverines have no chance of meeting in the wild.
If they would, though, wolverines would win the fight.
That’s because wolverines are bigger, faster, and more powerful. They also have a stronger bite compared to honey badgers.
Honey badgers are notoriously aggressive, but wolverines can be aggressive too when provoked or attacked.
While honey badgers occasionally scare off lions, wolverines habitually pursue and kill large mammals. No doubt, all odds are in their favor.