Japanese badger

The Japanese badger (Meles anakuma) is a species of carnivoran of the family Mustelidae, the weasels and their kin. Endemic to Japan, it is found on Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku,[2] and Shōdoshima.[1] It shares the genus Meles with the Asian and European badgers. In Japan it is called by the name nihonanaguma (ニホンアナグマ), lit. "Japan hole-bear" or mujina (むじな, 狢).

Japanese badger
Meles meles anakuma at Inokashira Park Zoo
At Inokashira Park Zoo, Tokyo
Scientific classification
M. anakuma
Binomial name
Meles anakuma
Temminck, 1844
Japanese Badger area
Japanese badger range


Meles (Genus)
Comparative illustration of European badger (top), Asian badger (centre) and Japanese badger (bottom)

Japanese badgers are smaller (average length 79 cm (31 in) in males, 72 cm (28 in) in females) and less sexually dimorphic (except in the size of the canine teeth) than their European counterparts.[1][3] Tail length is between 14 and 20 cm (5.5 and 7.9 in). This species is rather smaller on average than the European badger but is similar or mildly larger than the Asian badger. Adults usually weigh from 3.8 to 11 kg (8.4 to 24.3 lb).[4][5] The average weight of female Japanese badgers in one study from the Tokyo area was found to be 6.6 kg (15 lb) while that of males was 7.76 kg (17.1 lb).[6] In the Yamaguchi Prefecture, the average spring weight of female and male Japanese badgers was 4.4 kg (9.7 lb) and 5.7 kg (13 lb).[7] The torso is blunt and limbs are short. The front feet are equipped with powerful digging claws. The claws on hind feet are smaller. The upper coat has long gray-brown hair. Ventral hair is short and black. The face has characteristic black-white stripes that are not as distinct as in the European badger. The dark color is concentrated around the eyes. The skull is smaller than in the European badger.[1]


The absence of badgers from Hokkaido, and the presence of related M. leucurus in Korea, suggest that the ancestral badgers reached Japan from the southwest via Korea.[1] Genetic studies indicate that there are substantial differences between Japanese and Asian badgers, which were formerly considered conspecific, and that the Japanese badgers are genetically more homogenous.[1]


Like other members of Meles, Japanese badgers are nocturnal and hibernate during the coldest months of the year.[1] Beginning at 2 years of age, females mate and give birth to litters of two or three cubs in the spring (March–April). They mate again shortly afterwards, but delay implantation until the following February.[1] Japanese badgers are more solitary than European badgers; they do not aggregate into social clans, and mates do not form pair bonds. During mating season, the range of a male badger overlaps with those of 2 to 3 females.[1]


These badgers are found in a variety of woodland and forest habitats.[1]


In Japanese mythology, badgers are shapeshifters known as mujina. In the Nihon Shoki, mujina were known to sing and shapeshift as other humans.


Similar to other badgers, the Japanese badger's diet is omnivorous; it includes worms, beetles, berries and persimmons.[1]


Although it remains common, the range of M. anakuma has shrunk recently.[1] Covering an estimated 29 per cent of the country in 2003, the area had decreased 7 per cent over the previous 25 years.[1] Increased land development and agriculture, as well as competition from introduced raccoons are threats. Hunting is legal but has declined sharply since the 1970s.[1]

In 2017, concern was raised by an upsurge in badger culling in Kyushu. Apparently encouraged by local government bounties and increased popularity of badger meat in Japanese restaurants, it is feared the culling may have reached an unsustainable level.[8][9]

See also

  • Mujina, a badger creature from Japanese folklore


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Kaneko, Y.; Masuda, R.; Abramov, A.V. (2016). "Meles anakuma". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T136242A45221049. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-1.RLTS.T136242A45221049.en. Retrieved 18 February 2019.
  2. ^ Wozencraft, W.C. (2005). "Order Carnivora". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 611. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
  3. ^ Kaneko, Y., Maruyama, N. and Kanzaki, N. 1996. Growth and seasonal changes in body weight and size of Japanese badger in Hinodecho, suburb of Tokyo. Journal of Wildlife Research 1: 42-46.
  4. ^ Tanaka, H. (2006). Winter hibernation and body temperature fluctuation in the Japanese badger, Meles meles anakuma. Zoological science, 23(11), 991-997.
  5. ^ Yoshimura, K., Shindo, J., & Kageyama, I. (2009). Light and scanning electron microscopic study on the tongue and lingual papillae of the Japanese badgers, Meles meles anakuma. Okajimas folia anatomica Japonica, 85(4), 119-127.
  6. ^ Kaneko, Y., & Maruyama, N. (2005). Changes in Japanese badger (Meles meles anakuma) body weight and condition caused by the provision of food by local people in a Tokyo suburb. Mammalian Sci, 45, 157-164.
  7. ^ Tanaka, H. 2002. Ecology and Social System of the Japanese badger, Meles meles anakuma (Carnivora; Mustelidae) in Yamaguchi, Japan. Ph.D Thesis, Yamaguchi University.
  8. ^ Hornyak, T. (2017-06-09). "Ecologists warn of Japanese badger cull 'crisis'". Nature. doi:10.1038/nature.2017.22131.
  9. ^ Kaneko, Y.i; Buesching, C. D.; Newman, C. (2017-04-13). "Japan: Unjustified killing of badgers in Kyushu". Nature. 544 (7649): 161. doi:10.1038/544161a.
Anaguma castle

The Anaguma or Bear In The Hole (穴熊 anaguma, lit. "hole-bear") is a castle used in shogi. (An anaguma is a Japanese badger.) It is commonly used in professional shogi.

Asian badger

The Asian badger (Meles leucurus), also known as the sand badger is a species of badger native to Mongolia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Korean Peninsula and Russia.

Asiatic linsang

The Asiatic linsang (Prionodon) is a genus comprising two species native to Southeast Asia: the banded linsang (Prionodon linsang) and the spotted linsang (Prionodon pardicolor). Prionodon is considered a sister taxon of the Felidae.


Badgers are short-legged omnivores in the families Mustelidae (which also includes the otters, polecats, weasels, and wolverines), and Mephitidae (which also includes the skunks). They are not a natural taxonomic grouping, but are united by possession of a squat body adapted for fossorial activity. All belong to the caniform suborder of carnivoran mammals. The 11 species of mustelid badgers are grouped in four subfamilies: Melinae (4 species, including the European badger), Helictidinae (5 species of ferret-badger), Mellivorinae (the honey badger or ratel), and Taxideinae (the American badger); the respective genera are Arctonyx, Meles, Melogale, Mellivora and Taxidea. Badgers include the most basal mustelids; the American badger is the most basal of all, followed succesively by the ratel and Melinae. The two species of Asiatic stink badgers of the genus Mydaus were formerly included within Melinae (and thus Mustelidae), but more recent genetic evidence indicates these are actually members of the skunk family.Badger mandibular condyles connect to long cavities in their skulls, giving resistance to jaw dislocation and increasing their bite grip strength, but in turn limiting jaw movement to hinging open and shut, or sliding from side to side but not the twisting movement possible for the jaws of most mammals.

Badgers have rather short, wide bodies, with short legs for digging. They have elongated, weasel-like heads with small ears. Their tails vary in length depending on species; the stink badger has a very short tail, while the ferret badger's tail can be 46–51 cm (18–20 in) long, depending on age. They have black faces with distinctive white markings, grey bodies with a light-coloured stripe from head to tail, and dark legs with light-coloured underbellies. They grow to around 90 cm (35 in) in length including tail.

The European badger is one of the largest; the American badger, the hog badger, and the honey badger are generally a little smaller and lighter. Stink badgers are smaller still, and ferret badgers smallest of all. They weigh around 9–11 kg (20–24 lb), with some Eurasian badgers around 18 kg (40 lb).


Catopuma is a genus containing two Asian small wild cat species, the bay cat (C. badia) and the Asian golden cat (C. temminckii).

Both are typically reddish brown in colour, with darker markings on the head. They inhabit forested environments in Southeast Asia. The bay cat is restricted to the island of Borneo. Originally thought to be two subspecies of the same animal, recent genetic analysis has confirmed they are, indeed, separate species.The two species diverged from one another 4.9-5.3 million years ago, long before Borneo separated from the neighboring islands. Their closest living relative is the marbled cat, from which the common ancestor of the genus Catopuma diverged around 9.4 million years ago.


Ferret-badgers are the five species of the genus Melogale, which is the only genus of the monotypic mustelid subfamily Helictidinae.

Bornean ferret-badger (Melogale everetti)

Chinese ferret-badger (Melogale moschata)

Javan ferret-badger (Melogale orientalis)

Burmese ferret-badger (Melogale personata)

Vietnam ferret-badger (Melogale cucphuongensis)

Indian brown mongoose

The Indian brown mongoose (Herpestes fuscus) looks similar to the short-tailed mongoose from Southeast Asia and is sometimes believed to be only a subspecies of this latter. The Indian brown mongoose is found in southwest India and Sri Lanka.


Lutrogale is a genus of otters, with only one extant species—the smooth-coated otter.

Meles (genus)

Meles is a genus of badgers containing three living species, the Japanese badger (Meles anakuma), Asian badger (Meles leucurus), and European badger (Meles meles). In an older categorization, they were seen as a single species with three subspecies (Meles meles anakuma, Meles meles leucurus and Meles meles meles). There are also several extinct members of the genus. They are members of the subfamily Melinae of the weasel family, Mustelidae.


Mujina (貉) is an old Japanese term primarily referring to the Japanese badger. In some regions the term refers instead to the raccoon dog (also called tanuki) or to introduced civets. Adding to the confusion, in some regions badger-like animals are also known as mami, and in one part of Tochigi Prefecture badgers are referred to as tanuki and raccoon dogs are referred to as mujina.


The Mustelidae (; from Latin mustela, weasel) are a family of carnivorous mammals, including weasels, badgers, otters, ferrets, martens, mink, and wolverines, among others. Mustelids are diverse and the largest family in the order Carnivora, suborder Caniformia. Mustelidae comprises about 56-60 species across eight subfamilies.


Mustelinae is a subfamily of family Mustelidae, which includes weasels, ferrets amd minks.It was formerly defined in a paraphyletic manner to also include wolverines, martens, and many other mustelids, to the exclusion of the otters (Lutrinae).


Nyctereutes is an Old World genus of the family Canidae, consisting of just one living species, the raccoon dog of East Asia. Nyctereutes appeared about 9.0 million years ago (Mya), with all but one species becoming extinct before the Pleistocene.

Native to East Asia, the raccoon dog has been intensively bred for fur in Europe and especially in Russia during the twentieth century. Specimens have escaped or have been introduced to increase production and formed populations in Eastern Europe. It is currently expanding rapidly in the rest of Europe, where its presence is undesirable because it is considered to be a harmful and invasive species.


The Paradoxurinae are a subfamily of the viverrids that was denominated and first described by John Edward Gray in 1864.Pocock subordinated the oriental genera Paradoxurus, Paguma and Arctictis to this subfamily.


Paradoxurus is a genus within the viverrid family that was denominated and first described by Frédéric Cuvier in 1822. As of 2005, this genus was defined as comprising three species native to Southeast Asia:

the Asian palm civet (P. hermaphroditus)

the golden palm civet (P. zeylonensis)

the brown palm civet (P. jerdoni)In 2009, it was proposed to also include the golden wet-zone palm civet (P. aureus), the Sri Lankan brown palm civet (P. montanus) and the golden dry-zone palm civet (P. stenocephalus), which are endemic to Sri Lanka.


Pusa is a genus of the earless seals, within the family Phocidae. The three species of this genus were split from the genus Phoca, and some sources still give Phoca as an acceptable synonym for Pusa.

The three species in this genus are found in Arctic and subarctic regions, as well as around the Caspian Sea. This includes these countries and regions: Russia, Scandinavia, Britain, Greenland, Canada, the United States, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Japan. Due to changing local environmental conditions, the ringed seals found in the Canadian region has varied patterns of growth. The northern Canadian ringed seals grow slowly to a larger size, while the southern seals grow quickly to a smaller size.

Only the Caspian seal is endangered.


Speothos is a genus of canid found in Central and South America. The genus includes the living bush dog, Speothos venaticus, and an extinct Pleistocene species, Speothos pacivorus. Unusually, the fossil species was identified and named before the extant species was discovered, with the result that the type species of Speothos is S. pacivorus.

Extant Carnivora species

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