European Badger

Scientific name: Meles meles

European badger - Meles meles
European badger - Meles meles. Photo © Cordier Sylvain / Getty Images.

The European badger (Meles meles) is a mammal that occurs throughout most of Europe. European badgers are also known by several other common names including brock, pate, grey and bawson.

European badgers are omnivores. They are powerfully built mammals that have a short, fat body and short, sturdy legs well suited for digging. The bottoms of their feet are naked and they have strong claws that are elongated with a sharp end honed for digging. They have small eyes and small ears and a long head. Their skull is is heavy and elongated and they have an oval braincase. Their fur is grayish and they have black faces with white stripes on their top and sides of their face and neck.

European badgers are social animals that live in colonies of 6 to 20 individuals. European badgers are burrowing mammals that create a network of underground tunnels known as a sett or den. Some setts are large enough to house more than a dozen badgers and can have tunnels that are as much as 1000 feet long with numerous openings. Badgers excavate their setts in well drained soils that are easy to dig in. The tunnels are between 2 two 6 feet beneath the surface of the ground and the badgers often construct large chambers that they can sleep in or care for young.

When digging tunnels, badgers create large mounds outside the entry way. By placing entrances on slopes, the badgers can let push the debris down the hill and away from the opening. They do the same when cleaning out their set, pushing bedding material and other waste out and away from the opening. Groups of badgers are known as colonies and each colony may construct and use several different setts throughout their territory.

The sets they use depend on the distribution of food resources within their territory as well as whether or not it is breeding season and young are to be raised in the set. Setts or sections of setts not used by badgers are sometimes occupied by other animals such as foxes or rabbits. European badgers are nocturnal and spend much of the day light hours in their setts.

Like bears, badgers experience winter sleep, during which time they become less active but their body temperature does not drop as it does in full hibernation. In late summer, badgers begin to gain the weight they will need to power themselves through their winter sleep period.

European badgers do not have many predators or natural enemies. In some parts of their range, wolves, dogs and lynxes pose a threat. In some areas, European badgers live side-by-side other predators such as foxes without conflict.

Their population has been increasing throughout their range since the 1980s. They were once threatened by rabies and tuberculosis.


European badgers are omnivores. They feed on a wide variety of plants and animals. These include invertebrates such as earthworms, insects, snails and slugs. They also eat small mammals such as rats, voles, shrews, moles, mice and rabbits. European badgers also feed on small reptiles and amphibians such as frogs, snakes, newts, and lizards. They also eat fruit, cereals, glover, and grass.


European badgers are found throughout the British Isles, Europe and Scandinavia. Their range extends westward to the Volga River (west of the Volga River, Asian badgers are common).


European badgers are classified within the following taxonomic hierarchy:

Animals > Chordates > Vertebrates > Tetrapods > Amniotes > Mammals > Carnivores > Mustelids > European Badgers

European badgers are divided into the following subspecies:

  • Common badger (Meles meles meles)
  • Cretan badger (Meles meles arcalus)
  • Trans Caucasian badger (Meles meles canascens)
  • Kizlyar badger (Meles meles heptneri)
  • Iberian badger (Meles meles marianensis)
  • Norwegian badger (Meles meles milleri)
  • Rhodes badger (Meles meles rhodius)
  • Fergana badger (Meles meles severzovi)