The honey badger or ratel is one of the more pugnacious mammals in Africa and southern Asia. A large member of the weasel family, it is otherwise not closely related to the true badgers of North America and Eurasia, with which it shares certain superficial physical characteristics. Indeed, its reputation for ferocity and grit actually calls to mind another mustelid of faraway northern climes, the wolverine. Honey badgers are adaptable omnivores, feasting on everything from fruits and berries to scorpions, snakes, small mammals and carrions. Its common name derives from its predilection for honey, to which it is sometimes led, in a famous relationship, by a bird known as the greater honeyguide. On account of its strongly contrasting colour pattern, drawing a ratel is easily done in black and white.
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Outline in ovals the general proportions of the honey badger's main body parts, specifically the head, body, legs and tail. Ratels have both smaller heads and longer legs relative to their total size than true badgers. The relatively short, bushy tail is typically around 20 to 30 per cent of the animal's total body length.
Sketch the general shape of the honey badger's body. Its head is broad and short-muzzled. The ratel's ears are externally reduced, comprised essentially of ridges of skin close-packed against the head; they certainly do not extend above the crest of the cranium, so in a profile sketch they would not interrupt the smooth outline of the head. Thick, stubby legs support the rocky body, and the paws are relatively large in proportion to the rest of the animal. Its tail is bushy and often curled up over the hindquarters.
Accentuate the creature's imposing claws, which are among its defining characteristics -- and one reason ratels are so often compared with badgers. Like badgers, ratels employ their claws to dig, easily excavating burrows and unearthing underground prey like grubs, termites and rodents. The fore-claws are longer and more curved than those on the hind paws, which are relatively straight. Those robust front claws are visible even at a distance, so they will likely be a strong feature of your drawing.
Colour the honey badger. Its pelage is strikingly marked with a whitish or greyish saddle on top and deep, dark black fur below. In older ratels, the saddle may be particularly dark, with the palest portion upon the head and back of the neck, so pepper the light saddle with dark marks to indicate its grizzled nature. Such a strong pattern likely serves the honey badger the same way it serves a skunk: as a warning to would-be predators that this feisty little creature is ferocious when protecting itself -- and can eject its own musky odour.
Tips and warnings
- Situate the honey badger in an appropriate environment, if including it in a larger landscape scene. Ratels inhabit a wide range of habitats, from mountain forests to open woodland, savannah and semi-desert scrub, so both timbered and grassland backdrops are ecologically justified.
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