All mongoose species are short-legged animals with long bodies, pointy noses, furry tails, and small ears. The diminutive dwarf mongoose is the smallest species of mongoose with the average adult reaching between 17 and 24 cm in length.
The largest mongoose species found in the Egyptian mongoose which can reach up to 60 cm in length as an adult. The tail of the mongoose is often as long as the body and head combined. They range in weight from just 0.5 kg to 5 kg depending on the sex and species of the mongoose.
The majority of the mongoose species have short brown or grey fur that is grizzled in appearance. A few of the species sport interesting ringed tails or stripey coats.
They all have nonretractile claws that are used to dig burrows and search for food. Many of them have got scent glands that they use to mark their territory or to communicate with other members of their family pack.
Range & habitat
Mongoose are primarily found in Africa and their range extends across the whole continent, with some species of mongoose living on the Iberian Peninsula and in southern Asia.
Most species of mongoose live in complex subterranean tunnels or borrows. Their habitat ranges from the sands of the Kalahari desert to the marshes of Madagascar.
The Indian gray mongoose was introduced to Hawaii, Mauritius, and some Caribbean islands to kill off local rodent species. They have been seen to thrive in these new habitats which shows that they are highly adaptable to change. However, these introductions have proved disastrous for the native animal species whose populations have been severely depleted by the mongoose.
The diet of the mongoose depends on the particular species, but they are all omnivores. In general, they survive on small animals such as rodents, frogs, insects, worms, birds, snakes, and fish. They will supplement their diet with any vegetation that occurs in the area, including berries, roots, nuts, and seeds.
A number of species of mongoose eat eggs and they are known to steal eggs from chicken farms. They crack open the eggs by standing on their hind legs and throwing the egg against a rock or hard surface until the shell has broken. The mongoose species that live along the coast have been known to eat sea turtle eggs and even the eggs of certain sea birds.
The Indian gray mongoose and the yellow mongoose are both known for their ability to fight and kill various deadly snake species such as cobras. Rudyard Kipling wrote about this in his fables and even included the story of the Indian gray mongoose, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi in the Jungle Book. In the story, the mongoose protects a young child by killing a cobra.
Behaviour & lifestyle
Most species of mongoose are active during the day and sleep at night. One notable exception is the white-tailed mongoose, found in Southern Africa. The white-tailed mongoose is a nocturnal creature and is solitary except for during the mating season.
The banded mongoose is one of the most well-known species of mongoose that lives in large groups. They are known to live, fight, forage, and travel together as a team. They tend to live in one area for about a week before moving on to find new food sources.
Some species of mongoose are solitary or live in breeding pairs. However, the majority of mongoose species live in large social groups. There are generally a few lookouts posted throughout the day to keep the group safe. Some members of the group will look after the young while the rest of the group forages nearby.
Mongoose constantly make noise throughout the day, and some researchers have noted that the chatter appears to include variations in sound like human speech. The theory is that they are communicating possible dangers, foraging information, and group movements.
Fun meerkat facts
- Both mongooses and mongeese are considered to be correct plurals of the word mongoose.
- A baby mongoose is called a pub.
- Mongeese produce a litter of between 2 – 4 babies
They can tolerate a small amount of snake venom.
- They often choose to live in burrows vacated by other animals instead of digging a new home.
- When the lookout whistles, the whole group of mongeese while rush underground to hide until the threat is gone.
- Banded mongeese have been shown to pass on traditions related to foraging to the next generation.
- The mongoose was a sacred animal in ancient Egypt. Mummified mongooses are often found in tombs and the image of a mongoose is common on burial urns.
- A group of mongeese is known by several names, including a mob, gang, pack, and troop.
Social groups of mongeese appear to share food and help each other out in difficult times.
- They have a number of natural predators, including jackals, leopards, hawks, and maribou storks.
- In the wild, the average lifespan of a mongoose is between 6 – 10 years but the can live for up to 20 years in captivity.
- They can reach a top speed of 32 kph
- They are very good climbers when they need to get away from a predator.
Meet the mongoose
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