Badgers are short-legged omnivores in the weasel family, Mustelidae. The 11 species of badger are grouped in three subfamilies: Melinae (9 Eurasian badgers), Mellivorinae (the ratel) and Taxideinae (the American badger). The Asiatic Stink badgers of the genus Mydaus were formerly included within Melinae (and thus Mustelidae), but recent genetic evidence indicates these are actually members of the skunk family, placing them in the taxonomic family Mephitidae.
Badgers include the species in the genera Meles, Arctonyx, Taxidea and Mellivora. Their lower jaws are articulated to the upper by means of transverse condyles firmly locked into long cavities of the skull, so dislocation of the jaw is all but impossible. This enables the badgers to maintain their hold with the utmost tenacity, but limits jaw movement to hinging open and shut, or sliding from side to side without the twisting movement possible for the jaws of most mammals.
Badgers have rather short, fat bodies, with short legs built 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 18 to 20 inches (46 to 51 cm) long, depending on age. They have black faces with distinctive white markings, gray bodies with a light-coloured stripe from head to tail, and dark legs with light coloured stomachs. They grow to around 35 inches (89 cm) 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. The stink badgers are smaller still, and the ferret badgers are the smallest of all. They weigh around 20–24 pounds (9.1–11 kg) on average, with some Eurasian badgers weighing in at around 40 pounds (18 kg).