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Pony near Hampton Ridge
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Badgers grooming / Badgers mutual grooming

For many people, one of the great joys of badger watching is observing the animals grooming themselves and each other, and enjoying a good old scratch.

A response to parasites, insect bites and other irritants, scratching is a regular feature of badger life, and so also is general grooming, whether that be nibbling or licking themselves, presumably to keep their coats in good order for protection against the elements. Mutual grooming between a mixture of adults and cubs serves the same function, but additionally is surely a sign of affection that strengthens the bond between the animals.

A variety of grooming postures are adopted by badgers but to onlookers, the one that is most likely to raise a smile involves the badger sitting or lying back on its haunches and, with seemingly not a care in the world (and with all hints of modesty forgotten), enjoying prolonged scratches and nibbles at its under-parts and nether regions.

(1) A badger lies back, scratches and grooms itself - 3.04 minutes

Soon after emergence, an adult badger - a young (ish) boar, I think - lies back, grooms and scratches itself at the sett entrance, whilst three cubs play and forage nearby under the watchful eye of the noticeably large sow. A large domestic cat is either not noticed or ignored late in the video as it walks along a nearby path. Song thrush and blackbird song is prominent in the background.

(2) Mutual grooming and play - 2.15 minutes

Quite early in the evening, whilst it's still very light, two cubs dash from the sett to greet the returning sow and third cub. The cubs play, scent mark the sow and climb on her. Affectionate pushing, shoving, mutual grooming and foraging follow. A cub finally encourages the sow to play but she's having none of it. Blackbirds and song thrush contribute to a rousing dusk chorus.

(3) Play fighting and 'lying back' grooming - 4.31 minutes

In the early hours of the morning, two badger cubs 'play fight'. An adult - the young (ish) boar seen earlier, I think - later joins in but he wants to exert authority rather than play. The boar engages in a prolonged bout of 'lying back' grooming before the cubs return, make a nuisance of themselves again, and are summarily but half-playfully sorted out by the boar.

(4) A brief late night scratch - 1.25 minutes

It's late-April and two adult badgers habitually return to the sett throughout the night as if checking that their very young cubs remain safe underground. At the start of the sequence, one scent marks the ground by the sett entrance before the other appears, stops to briefly scratch and groom, goes underground then almost immediately re-emerges and follows the first animal along a well-used badger path.

Further information and a variety of fascinating badger videos

Badgers - a general introduction
Badger field signs - look out for evidence of badger presence in the countryside
Badger watching - a guide to watching badgers
Badger behaviour - an introduction to a series of badger behaviour videos, mostly shot in the New Forest, and lots more information about badgers
Badger's setts - situation, size, tunnelling and excavation (videos)
Emergence from the sett - times of emergence and factors influencing variation (videos)
Grooming and mutual grooming - badgers grooming themselves and each other (videos)
Scent marking - badgers scent marking their nearest and dearest, and also their territory (videos)
Badger bedding - essential comfort for a good day's sleep (videos)
Play fighting amongst the cubs - high jinks by the sett, but also preparation for later life (videos)
Badger fights / badgers fighting - potentially vicious affairs (videos)
Badgers and foxes together - an often uncomfortable relationship (videos)
Disturbance at badger setts - by people, cats, dogs and passing foxes (videos)
Other animals in the sett, and animal passers-by - shared living space, rabbits, mice, deer, ponies and more (videos)

References:
The Natural History of Badgers, Ernest Neal
Badgers: Ernest Neal and Chris Cheeseman
Darkness Is Light Enough: Chris Ferris
Out of the Darkness: Chris Ferris
Eileen Soper's Badgers
Mammals of Britain and Europe: David Macdonald and Priscilla Barrett


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Content produced by Andrew Walmsley
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley