Fact-based scientifically-accurate educational information about Badgers
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Folklore about Badgers

Many 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:

  • English = Brock

  • Scots = Brox

  • Scottish Gaelic = Brochlach

  • Irish Gaelic = Broc

  • Welsh = Mochyn daeaar

  • Welsh = Broch

  • Welsh = Pryf penfrith

  • Welsh = Pryf llwyd

  • French = Bléreau

  • French = Blaireau européen

  • German = Dachs

  • German = Gräving

  • Italian = Tasso

  • Arabic = al-Ghoreer

  • Polish = Borsuk

  • Greek = Asvos

  • Gaelic = Broc

  • Welsh = Broch

  • Japanese = Tanuki

  • Czech = Jezevec

  • Spanish = Tejon

  • Hungarian = Borsz

Footballing Badgers?

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 at midnight."

That's not an "excuse" I'd want to give to a modern-day Magistrate!

Badgers Luck

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.
This was supposed to be because badgers often walked on sloping ground on the sides of hills!

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.

Monster Badgers?

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 heifer".

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.

Badger Ham?

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 or eating a badger ham would be a criminal offence today!

Badger Buttons

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!

Badger Bones

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!

Badger Masks

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 would expect 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 smell.
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 Hibernate?

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 actually hibernate.

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 enormously.

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.

Michael Clark
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