Class Mammalia
Order Carnivora
Family Mustelidae
Subfamily Mellivorinae
Species Mellivora capensis

Ratel is the Afrikaans word for what we English speakers have more traditionally called a honey badger. They live throughout Africa and in parts of South Asia, India and the Middle East. They are members of the weasel family. Although ratels and badgers are closely related, ratels are not actually a type of badger.

Ratels have dark gray fur on their backs and black fur on their bellies, which is the opposite of most mammals. This makes them look somewhat like a cross between a skunk and a weasel. They eat stuff like frogs, insects, snakes, bee larva, and of course, honey.

Ratels are protected from bee stings by a layer of fat. They also have a uncanny ability to survive snake bites that would be deadly to most creatures. They may become paralyzed for hours, but will eventually recover and go on their way unfazed. This is necessary because they hunt and eat some of the most poisonous African snakes, such as the puff adder.

They get to be up to about 25 pounds (11 kilograms), and are about a foot long, with a bushy, flexible tail adding another foot in length. They are nocturnal, and live solitarily or in pairs. They are vicious fighters, and do attack animals larger than themselves, potentially including humans, although this is not common.

A honey badger. A creature noted for it's strong, sharp claws and thick hide, resistant to bee stings.

a Ratel is also a kind of large six-wheeled armoured truck with a mounted gun, manufactured by the South African defence industry (read: war machine). It was designed as a infantry combat vehicle (troop carrier and gun mount). It is usually fitted with a 20 mm or 90 mm gun, but can also be equiped with a machine gun, a missile launcher, mortar, or used as armoured command, logistics and recovery vehicles. There have even been anti-tank guided missiles mounted on this chassis.

Ratels were used by the South African defence force in the cross-border warfare of the 1980s, and also for internal enforcement in the late 1980's.

The weight of all of a ratel around 18 tons. It takes three crew: Driver, commander and gunner, plus up to 8 passengers (i.e. an infantry squad) at the gun-ports (Numbers are different where otherwise noted below for the various models). The ratel was designed in the 1970s during the arms embargo.

The main models are:

  • Ratel-20: with a 20mm gun
  • Ratel 12.7 Command: Carries up to 7 passengers.
  • Ratel 60: with a 60mm gun.
  • Ratel 90: with a 90mm gun, a "fire support vehicle" with a crew of four, plus up to seven passengers.

The ratel's design is characteristic of South African military vehicles - with a very high body (Think an extra-long, extra-high, brown SUV with no chrome and a big diesel engine), and a V shaped underbody.. The high draught allows the vehicle to bundu-bash, and the V shape is designed to deflect a landmine blast occuring underneath. The Ratel's windows are small and armoured, but large enough to aim a rifle through when opened (four firing ports on each side).

If you have ever seen British military armoured car as used in Northern Ireland, well a Ratel looks nothing that. A British armoured car is low on the ground, looks like a Land rover covered in iron plate. It would be most likely useless off the tarmac.


Ra"tel (?), n. [F.] Zool.

Any carnivore of the genus Mellivora, allied to the weasels and the skunks; -- called also honey badger.

Several species are known in Africa and India. The Cape ratel (M. Capensis) and the Indian ratel (M. Indica) are the best known. The back is gray; the lower parts, face, and tail are black. They are fond of honey, and rob the nests of wild bees.


© Webster 1913.

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