Folklore about Badgers
years ago, people believed all sorts of weird and wacky things about badgers. These old sayings
and stories (folklore) seem very strange today!
That said, some of the stories do persist, so we will try and
correct some of the modern silliness too.
Names for Badgers
The badger has had a series of names over the centuries. In a
few areas it was called a "grey" - this being because it exhibits a
generally grey appearance when viewed in a dim light. In other times it has been
known as a "black and white", or even, one suspects in more modern
times, as "stripey".
More commonly, it has been known simply, and affectionately, as
simply Brock (sometimes written as brox or as the Celtic broc). People and
places who have "brock" in their name have at least some connection
with badgers of old.
It's modern "scientific" name is Meles meles - this
meaning that it is a member of the mustelid class of carnivores (and therefore
not a rodent).
Names in other languages include:
The name of the Rangers
football ground ("Ibrox") means home of the badger!
Types of Badgers?
Back in the 16th Century one writer called Turberville stated
that there were two types of badger in Britain. He stated that there was one
breed known as "badgerwhelps", these had taller legs, yellow ears and
lived in sandy areas. The other breed were known as "badgerpigs", and
these were less yellow, shorter, more fierce and had a terrible stink about
them! Of course with our modern knowledge, we can see that Turberville's
"theory" has absolutely no basis in zoological or anatomical reality.
We suspect that Turberville had been looking at too few badgers
and had been reading rather too many books on witchcraft. Talking of which...
Other people believed that
badgers could help to protect you against witchcraft! All you needed was some
badger hair, and a bag made from the skin of a black cat. You also needed to be
a bit of a star gazer . . .
"A tuft of hair gotten from the head of a full-grown Brock
is powerful enough
to ward off all manner of witchcraft;
these must be worn in a little bag made of
cat's skin - a black cat -
and tied about the neck when the moon be not more
than seven days old,
and under that aspect when the planet Jupiter be mid-heaven
That's not an "excuse" I'd want to give to a
Some people thought that badgers could bring bad luck. This
rhyme dates from about 200 years ago:
Should one hear a badger call,
And then an ullot cry,
Make thy peace with God, good soul,
For thou shall shortly die.
So, according to this bit of folklore,
if you hear a badger call, then hear an "Ullot" (an owl) hoot, you are not long
for this world!
Badgers and their Legs
Some people used
to say that badgers had legs that were shorter on one side than the other.
was supposed to be because badgers often walked on sloping ground on the sides
More Bad Luck
Another 200-year-old story says that badgers - like
black cats - can bring bad luck or good luck. If the badger walks across the
path that you have just walked on, you are in for very good luck. However, if
the badger walks across the path in front of you, and if it happens to scrape up
a bit of earth as it goes, then it is time for you to choose your coffin! The
old rhyme goes like this:
Should a badger cross the path
Which thou hast taken, then
Good luck is thine, so it be said
Beyond the luck of men.
But if it cross in front of thee,
Beyond where thou shalt tread,
And if by chance doth turn the mould,
Thou art numbered with the dead.
Some people used to believe that some badgers grew into
such monstrous beasts that they could cause terror and mayhem and
destroy sheep, cattle and horses.
And, no, a badger can't "bring
down a horse at a gallop" or "break a leg of a Holstein-Friesian
Badgers can dig through Reinforced Concrete?
Whilst badgers can dig into soft soil (and even quite
firm soil), they can't dig through proper solid reinforced concrete.
That said, if your concrete is made with too much sand,
or you used far too much water in the concrete mixer, a badger might be
able to get through after a very, very determined effort.
In times of old, that is before the common use of refrigerators,
people did all manner of things to preserve meat of many kinds. One of
the foods they used to preserve were badger hams - these were the smoked
and salted hind quarters from a badger. Back in those days, I guess you
ate food for survival rather than the taste.
Just to keep everyone within the law, preparing, keeping
eating a badger ham would be a criminal offence today!
Yes ... people did used to use badger teeth as buttons
on ceremonial dress in the Scottish Highlands.
Call me a bit weird if you want, but going out to a posh
dinner and seeing a load of manky yellow teeth across the dining table, would be enough to put me off my food!
One particularly masculine bone from an important bit of
the male badger used to be used as either a tie-pin. At a wedding, it
was sometimes given by the father-of-the-bride to the bride-groom so the
marriage would be blessed with many children!
Call me a cynic, but I'd prefer something a bit more
pragmatic, like a nice set of bedroom furniture!
The badger would sometimes be skinned, and its face used
to decorate the sporran on a Highland kilt.See the following link
for more details:
I suppose the only people who wear them nowadays, are
the sort of people who are dumb enough to wear real animal fur too!
Beat the Badger game?
The story of Gwawl and Rhiannon shows how an ancient game 'Badger in
the Bag' was supposed to have originated.
Traces of this custom, called 'Beat the Badger' still exist in Fife
(between Edinburgh and Dundee in Scotland).
This violent "game" takes the form of an ancient ordeal
of running the gauntlet, where the player ran between a double
line of boys wielding sticks.
Badgers Smoke Underground?
Nope ... badgers do not smoke underground. In very cold
weather, when the air is still, you might sometimes see a small plume of
steam rising from the ventilation hole of a badger sett. This is nothing
more than warm air leaving the sett - just like your breath turns
"white" when you breathe out in cold air.
Badgers "do" their own funerals?
Badgers do not bury their dead in the many we humans
in a conventional funeral. When we conduct a funeral, we do so because
we are imaginative enough to believe that the dead person's soul has
gone to live in heaven. Badgers, like other animals, do not have such
intelligence, and so they can not comprehend the desire for a formal
funeral like we would.
As for the so-called badger "funerals", rarely, a sett may collapse, and a badger may be trapped
underground by roots or heavy stones; which is why we might think the
badgers have buried one of their own.
On other occasions, a smelly
rotting corpse of a dead badger may start to attract vermin and pests into the sett, so
badger may cover the corpse with old bedding or soil to mask the bad
In rare cases, the smell may become so bad, that the other badgers seal
the dead badger into a tunnel by piling a "plug" of soil to
block the tunnel.
Badgers don't hibernate through the winter.
A bit like proverbial 2nd-Year University
students, they might have a few "lazy" days when they don't
emerge from their warm comfy bed because it's too cold, but they don't
Badgers don't need to drink water?
Not true. Badgers generally eat very moist foods, so you
won't often see them drinking copious amounts of water. However, in hot
dry periods (or in the freezing winter months), they do need fresh clean
water - otherwise they will get too de-hydrated and die.
In hot summers, far fewer badger cubs survive, and for years to come
badger numbers will remain depressed.
Even if you do not feed badgers in your garden, a good supply of fresh
running water in the hot summer will benefit badgers and other animals
Badgers are blind?
Nope ... badgers have relatively poor vision, but they can see.
As Rough as a Badgers Bum?
Surprisingly, perhaps, this does have a grain of truth in it.
Badgers may fight amongst themselves, often to work out who can
become the most senior badger in the clan. In these fights, one badger
will try and bite the other badger on the bum. These injuries can result
in bite marks to the bum, and to a loss of fur on the bum. Accordingly,
some badgers can appear to have a bald bum, which would feel rough to
the touch due to any few remaining stubbly hairs.