1902 Encyclopedia > Ratel


RATEL. The animals known as Ratels or Honey-badgers are small clumsy-looking creatures of about the size and appearance of the true badgers, and belong to the same natural group of the Carnivora, namely, the subfamily Meliw of the large family Mustelidx, which contains the otters, badgers, stoats, we,asels, (4,Tc. (see MAmmALIA, vol. xv. p.. 440). Of the ratels two species are generally recognized, viz., the Indian Ratel (Mellivora indica), a RATEL native of all the peninsula of India, and the African (M. ratel), which ranges over the whole of the African continent - although by some authors the West African race is con-sidered to represent a third distinct species, which has been named M. leueonota. All the ratels are of very much the same colour, namely, iron-grey on the upper parts of the head, body, and tail, and black below, a style of colora, tion rather rare among mammals, as the upper side of the body is in the great majority darker than the lower. Their body is stout and thickly built ; the legs are short and strong, and armed, especially on the anterior pair, with long curved fossorial claws ; the tail is short ; and the ear-conches are reduced to mere rudiments. These modi-fications are all in relation to a burrowing mode of life, for which the rateLs are among the best adapted of all carnivores. The skull is conical, stout, and heavy, and the teeth, although sharper and less rounded than those of their allies the badgers, are yet far less suited to a purely carnivorous diet than those of such typical Mustelidx. as the stoats, weasels, and martens. The two species of ratel may be distinguished by the fact that the African has a distinct white line round the body at the junction of the grey of the upper side' with the black of the lower, while in the Indian this line is absent ; the teeth also of the former are on the whole decidedly larger, rounder, and hea,vier than those of the latter. In spite of these dif-ferences, however, the two ratels are so nearly allied that they might almost be considered to be merely geographical races of a single widely spread species.

The following account of the Indian ratel is extracted from Dr Judson's Mammals of India - " The Indian badger is found throughout the whole of India, from the extreme south to the foot of the Himalayas, chiefly in hilly districts, where it has greater facilities for constructing the boles and dens in which it lives ; but also in the north of India in alluvial plains, where the banks of large rivers afford equally suitable localities wherein to make its lair. It is stated to live usually in pairs, and to cat rats, birds, frogs, white ants, and various insects, and in the north of India it is accused of digging out dead bodies, and is popularly known as the grave-digger. It doubtless also, like its Cape congener, occa-sionally partakes of honey. It is often very destructive to poultry, and I have known of several having been trapped and killed whilst conmiitting such depredations in Central India and in the northern Circars. In confinement the Indian badger is quiet and will par-take of vegetable food, fruits, rice, Scc." o (O. T.)

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