The Mongoose

Learn about the mongoose, its habits, habitat, feeding and fighting powers.

The mongoose may look like a harmless little bundle of fur, but beware - this little guy is a snake killer. In fact, the mongoose has been called a snake's worst enemy. The bravery of the mongoose in the face of a deadly snake is quite amazing. So, what's the low down on this cute, yet vicious little creature, the mongoose?

There are more than forty different varieties of mongoose that roam over the plains and forests of Africa, Asia and Southern Europe. They vary in size from the dwarf mongoose, which is just over a foot long, to the crab eating mongoose of Southeast Asia which is about four feet long. The animal characteristically has a long bushy tail, short legs , a long body covered with thick, coarse hair and , small ears and a pointed nose.

Some varieties of mongoose are nocturnal while others emerge during daylight hours. The yellow mongoose can be seen in the daylight hours, living in communities of up to fifty individuals. They live in rocky crevices or holes in the ground. On occasion they will dig these themselves, but often they will simply move into burrows that have been vacated by other animals. The mongoose will feed on insects, beetles, worms, snails, lizards, frogs and crabs, as well as eggs and fruit. As well as preying on these small life forms, however, the mongoose is also renowned as a fighter of snakes. So, just how does this little creature take on the might of a venomous snake?

The mongoose is very fast. In a standoff with a snake, it will usually be able to move to avoid strikes from the snake. The mongoose will typically make a series of feints towards the snake, to finally dash in and seize the snake by the back of the neck. The animal's sharp teeth will bite deeply to break the snake's spine. Coupled with it's speed and courage is the fact that the mongoose has a high tolerance to the venom of a snake. It takes about eight times the lethal dose of snake bite for a rabbit to kill a mongoose. More than a few mongoose have been felled, however, by feasting on the snake they have just killed. They have eaten the head of the snake and the fangs have punctured the wall of the stomach, allowing the poison to seep into the bloodstream.

The mongoose is more than a match for the cobra, but the viper is another story. For some reason the mongoose does not build up immunity to the viper's venom. Additionally, the viper is much faster than the cobra in it's ability to strike.

There are some species of mongoose, however, that have been domesticated and made into pets. The animal is rather intelligent and can quickly pick up tricks such as playing dead and playing with balls and other props.

The mongoose, then, is a clever little creature with a deadly ability to look after itself in the wild. Let us respect it for its power while admiring it for its lovable antics.

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