Badger, the popular name of any species of the genus Meles of the Arctoid family Mustelidae (q.v.). The carnassial tooth has a cutting edge, and the lower jaw is articulated to the upper by means of a transverse condyle, which locks firmly into a long cavity of the skull, enabling these animals to maintain their hold with the utmost tenacity, and rendering dislocation of the jaw practically impossible. The best known species is Meles taxus, the common European Badger, indigenous in Britain, and the largest native carnivore. From the snout to the extremity of the tail the length is rather under three feet; the head is long and pointed, the body flat, and increasing in breadth towards the hind-quarters, the legs so short that the long coarse hair trails on the ground as the animal walks, and the tail very short. The head is white, except a black band on each side, the upper surface and tail grey, and the under surface and legs black. There is an anal pouch which secretes an oily substance of offensive odour. The Badger is a nocturnal burrowing animal, feeding on roots, fruit, eggs, and small mammals and reptiles, and choosing the most solitary woods for its earth, which has several chambers, and ends in a round hole well lined with dried grass. It is extremely shy and inoffensive, but if attacked will defend itself stubbornly, biting fiercely and, from the peculiar conformation of the jaws, holding on tenaciously.
It undergoes a partial hibernation, Badger-baiting, or putting a badger into a cask open at one end and laid on its side, and setting dogs to draw the poor beast out, was formerly a popular English sport. It is now illegal, but has left traces in the language in the verb "to badger" - to worry. M. leucurus, M. chinensis, and M. anakuma are closely allied Asiatic species. The American Badger (Taxidea americana) was formerly included in the same genus, with the name M. labradorica. It is rather smaller than the European species and more decidedly carnivorous in habit. Badgers are chiefly valued for their hair, that of the common badger being used for making shaving brushes; that of the American species is used for the same purpose and also for artists' brushes.