There are a lot of similarities between the American badger and the European Badger. Both are members of the Mustelidae family. They are both burrowing animals, of a similar shape and appearance. Both are of a similar size. Yet despite all the physical similarities, there are some behaviours and characteristics that really set these species apart.
In this post, we put the American Badger vs The European Badger side by side, to compare some of the key similarities and differences that exist between these animals.
American Badger vs European Badger – Taxonomies
- Order: Carnivora
- Family: Mustelidae
- Subfamily: Taxidiinae
- Genus: Taxidea
- Species: Taxidea Taxus
There are four subspecies of American Badger, and while they all have scientific names to differentiate the subspecies, collectively they are all just known as the American Badger.
- Order: Carnivora
- Family: Mustelidae
- Genus: Meles
- Species: Meles Meles
There are four subspecies of European Badger: The Common Badger, Iberian Badger, Kizlyar Badger and Norwegian Badger.
American Badger vs European Badger – Side-By-Side Comparison
|20-30 inches long (50-76 cm) excl tail
|24-35 inches long (61-90 cm) excl tail
|14-33 lbs (6.4-15 kg)
|15-37lbs (7-17 kg)
|Average 9-10 Years in the wild,
Up to 14 Years.
Slightly longer in captivity.
|Average 5-8 Years in the wild,
Up to 15 Years.
|Coarse coat of Brown, gray, and white fur.
Stripes of black and white on face. Bushy Tail
|Less coarse coat of black and white fur.
Distinctive lines on face and neck.
Short tail and legs with very strong claws.
|Large range between 100 – 1000 ha.
|Modest range between 20-50 ha.
|Prefer grassland, farm or parkland.
Can also be found in marshland or desert in extreme locations.
|Prefer wooded areas, pastureland, scrub and clearings with good soil for burrowing
|Across Canada, The USA and Mexico.
|Widely across Europe
|Solitary and Nocturnal
|Social, hibernate in areas with very cold winters
American Badger (Taxidea taxus)
The American Badger is generally smaller than the European Badger in both length and weight. Across the four subspecies, those that live in lower regions of the USA and Mexico are smaller than those that live in the Northwest USA and West or Central Canada.
Subspecies And Their Location
The four subspecies of American Badger and their range are as follows:
- Taxidea taxus taxus – Central USA and Canada
- Taxidea taxus jacksoni – Great Lakes, Southern Ontario
- Taxidea taxus jeffersoni – Western USA and Alberta
- Taxidea taxus berlandieri – Mexico, Southwest USA
The four subspecies of American Badger, while having unique taxonomies, and distinct ranges, have no other variation to their name and are simply known as the American Badger. There are some differences between the four subspecies, such as the white head stripe on Taxidea taxus berlandieri which extends down the full length of the body, to the base of the tail. On other subspecies the white stripe may be restricted to the head.
American Badger Habitat & Range
American Badgers largely reside in open grasslands where there is a lot of prey for them to eat. They are fairly inactive in the winter months, and, although they do not hibernate, they spend much of the winter sleeping in their burrows.
American Badgers are solitary animals. They come out mostly at night and have been known to hunt alongside Coyotes. It is believed that the different hunting styles, or the different way that prey reacts to these different animals increases success rate in securing a meal.
The range of the American Badger is much greater than their European cousins. They can live in a range between 100 to 1000 hectares in size during the warm months, reducing down to as little as 2 hectares in winter.
American Badger Diet
American Badgers are carnivores, but they do subsidise their meaty diet with a few plant based foods, namely corn, sunflower seeds, peas, green beans and fungi. They also have fond taste for honeycomb and bees. Prey animals that American Badgers eat include:
American Badger Characteristics
American badgers generally resemble common badgers in terms of their appearance. Northern subspecies grow larger than Southern subspecies in Autumn where food is abundant. During this time, adult male badgers can reach up to 11.5 to 15 kg (25 to 33 lb). Even so, they are generally smaller than the European Badger in a like for like comparison.
Males are generally larger than females. Their bodies are stocky and low-slung. They have short, powerful legs with very long fore claws, which can measure up to 5 cm in length.
The American badger, like the common badger, has distinctive head markings with a black and white pattern, brown or blackish “badges” marking the cheeks and a white stripe extending from the nose to the base of the head. In northern populations, this stripe ends near the shoulders. In southern populations, however, it continues over the back to the rump.
European Badger (Meles meles)
European Badgers are generally larger than their American cousins. There are four subspecies and until 2005 there were eight. However, four of the original subspecies were at that time determined to be a different species – the Caucasian Badger, and so there remains only four within this species.
Subspecies And Their Location
The four subspecies of European Badger and their range are as follows:
- Common Badger – Widely across Continental Europe with exception to the Iberian Peninsula.
- Iberian Badger – Spain and Portugal
- Kizlyar Badger – Steppe Regions including parts of The Kalmytsk and Caucasus
- Norwegian Badger – Southwestern Norway
Of the four subspecies, the Common and Kizlyar variants are the largest and have the most definitive black and white coloring.
European Badger Habitat & Range
Badgers rarely venture out during the day and live in an extensive network of underground tunnels and nests, known as a ‘sett’. Badgers prefer a well drained soil and often dig their setts under matted tree roots to provide stability to the soil.
Nest chambers in the tunnels are lined with dry grass, bracken and straw. Bedding may be taken to the entrance of the sett in order to air in the sun.
Unlike the American Badgers, the European Badgers are very social. They often live within family groups of between 4 and 12 individuals sometimes called ‘clans’. Their setts may be passed down from generation to generation to include space for multiple families. Large setts like this can have anywhere up to 50 exits, and families will live in different nesting areas with their own specific exits.
Badgers that live in the Northern parts of Europe will often hibernate for winter, blocking off the entrances to their setts once the first snow starts to fall. Their range in the warm months can reach as far as 50 hectares much less than their American cousins. Again, in winter this is greatly reduced, even for those that do not hibernate.
European Badger Diet
European Badgers have an omnivorous diet, consuming much more plant material than their American cousins. In fact, they are known to be amongst the least carnivorous animals in the order of Carnivora. They tend to eat more insects and carrion than the American Badger too. Earthworms make up an important part of their diet. Other common foods include:
This is not an exclusive list, but an example. They like a wide range of fruits and crops but will rarely eat prey animals any larger than a hedgehog.
European Badger Characteristics
European Badgers are larger and heavier than American Badgers. At the top end of the scale, they can grow to around 17kg in weight and 90 inches in length. Though for both American and European varieties, they are all heavier in the Autumn than they are in Spring, as they take on more food and fat reserves for the colder months.
The color of the coat and the face markings are two features that tell these badgers apart. The European Badger has much more defined black and white fur in its coat, giving the body a salt and pepper grey. Its not littered with brown like their American cousins. They also have a much smoother coat, with very defined, sharply contrasted black and white faces. The European species also has a shorter tail with less bushy fur.
The American Badger vs The European Badger – Summary Of Differences
- European Badgers are bigger and heavier than American Badgers
- American Badgers generally live longer in the wild than European Badgers, but a similar length in captivity.
- They both like similar terrain for burrowing, but American Badgers can be found in more extreme locations such as mountain regions and desert areas.
- American Badgers are known to be mostly solitary animals, whereas the European Badger is very social, often living in setts that include many other families, or even other animals such as rabbits.
- American Badgers are carnivorous, and may hunt with other predators, whereas the European Badger is known to be an ‘opportunistic’ omnivore. They will eat whatever is available to them from cereals and fruits, to insects and small mammals.
- European Badgers may hibernate in winter in some locations, whereas the American Badger does not hibernate.
- The range of the American Badger is much greater than that of the European Badger.
- European Badgers have a smoother coat with more prominent black and white color. The American Badger on the other hand has coarser ‘grizzly’ fur, with more brown coloring, and distinctive stripes on the face, with a white stripe running down their back.
Threats To Badgers
Both European badgers and American Badgers are listed as species of Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. That is not to say that the species does not face regional threats and risks.
In the UK for example, there are an estimated 47,500 European Badgers killed in road accidents every year. In areas of high population density or with very busy country roads, the species is regionally endangered. As a whole however, populations are steady.
There are few natural predators to badgers, but they do exist. In Europe, it is the grey wolf, lynx and brown bear that are the greatest predator threat. Whereas in the Americas, they have a few more. As well as the grey wolf, the American Badger needs to look out for cougars, golden eagles, bobcats, bears and, despite being the occasional hunting partner, coyotes can also be a threat.