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Last updated date: 17th Apr 2024
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Introduction to Mongoose

The mongoose is a little carnivore native to Africa, however certain species may also be found in southern Asia and southern Europe. These little animals are fearless predators renowned for attacking highly deadly snakes such as the king cobra. There are 33 species divided into 14 genera.

Mongooses vary in size with the smallest mongoose being the dwarf mongoose or Helogale parvula whose body measures just up to seven to ten inches in length and if we include its tail it adds an extra six to eight inches. The largest mongoose is the white-tailed mongoose and it is called the largest for a reason as its body measures between 19 to 28 inches and its tail is up to 19 inches.

Mongoose ranges in colour with many of them being grey to brown with few species having specific markings which include darker legs, pale or ringed tails, and few stripes on their abdomen region. The mongoose has shorter legs, a very long and pointy nose, and very small ears. The mongoose eats a variety of things as they feed on small mammals, birds, reptiles such as snakes, eggs, and insects. Few species of mongooses are also known to eat fruits, nuts, and seeds and several mongoose species are known to attack and kill venomous snakes. 

Each mongoose species has adapted to the environment in which it lives. The majority of species are terrestrial and active throughout the day. Some species, on the other hand, are semi-aquatic, and a few live in trees. Many mongoose species live in burrows and tunnels that they have built themselves or those they discover abandoned. Mongooses, for the most part, live alone or in couples, while certain species, such as the banded mongoose (Mungos mungo) and meerkats (Suricata suricatta), dwell in huge groups.

Loss of habitat is the most serious hazard to all mongoose species. Deforestation and agricultural conversion diminish the habitat in which they reside. The usage of pesticides, as well as a rise in pollution, constitute a concern. Mongooses are also victims of the pet trade, with many being trapped and exchanged, and in certain countries, they are forced to combat snakes in roadside performances.

In this article, we are going to discuss the mongoose, its habitat, description, different species of mongoose such as the black mongoose, white mongoose, and also a few of the most important and frequently asked questions will also be answered. 

Mongoose Scientific Name 

  • A mongoose is a group of similar species that belongs to the family of Herpestidae.  The scientific name is derived from a Greek term for a four-legged mammal. Cats, bears, dogs, seals, and raccoons are all members of the same order, Carnivora. They are the closest relatives of viverrids like civets, genets, and linsangs. They are related to hyenas, although only distantly. The mongoose is a feliformia, or carnivore that looks like a cat.

  • The mongoose is thought to have divided into two subfamilies early in its evolution: the Herpestinae and the Mungotinae. Galidiinae, a third subfamily, was originally categorized alongside the other two. Galidiinae is endemic to Madagascar and was previously known as the Malagasy mongoose because of its similar look. However, this subfamily is currently categorized as Eupleridae rather than Herpestidae.

  • There are around 34 species of mongoose left on the planet. This comprises 23 Herpestinae species and 11 Mungo Tinea species. The fossil record also contains information on a few extinct species. Mongoose species are dispersed unevenly within the family. Some genera include only a single species. The genus Herpestes, on the other hand, has about ten live species, including the well-known Indian grey -, Egyptian -, and crab-eating mongoose.

Mongoose Appearance 

  • The mongoose is considered to be slender creatures with an elongated body, short legs, a thin snout, and very small and rounded ears. Mongoose coat colour is either brown, grey, or even yellow and sometimes they do have stripes on their bodies. The tail of the mongoose has a very unique ring pattern or colouring on it. Mongoose is often mistaken to be weasel by many people even though they don't have more than two things in common. 

  • The size of the mongoose varies depending on the species. The body length of this species can range from seven inches for the little dwarf mongoose to 25 inches for the huge Egyptian mongoose, with the tail adding another six to 21 inches. As a result, the average animal is roughly the size of a house cat. When fully mature, the biggest species may weigh up to 11 pounds.

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Mongoose Behaviour 

  • In mongoose communication, smell plays a very important part. This is made easier by the existence of huge smell glands near the abdomen, which they utilize to attract mates and mark their territory. In fact, the smell gland is the major distinguishing feature that distinguishes these creatures from civets, genets, and linsangs. Mongooses, like other animals, rely on vocalizations to avert danger, initiate courtship, and communicate other essential information to other members. They can communicate with each other using a wide range of noises, including screams, growls, and laughter. Each sound is accompanied by a distinct set of actions.

  • In general, the Herpestidae family demonstrates a diverse range of social structures and behaviour. Some species flourish in isolation or small groups, while others exist in colonies of up to 50 individuals. Meerkats are well-known for living in huge cooperative bands with a specific social structure. Individuals are occasionally in charge of specific responsibilities such as guard duties, hunting, and kid protection. Each individual member's choices determine whether the colony lives or dies.

  • A species' social organization may be connected to its physical size and kind of animal. The bigger and more physically threatening Egyptian mongoose hunts alone, but the smaller dwarf mongoose is a more gregarious species that defends itself by congregating in big numbers. Individuals are vulnerable when they are alone. Even smaller animals, though, can be tough to kill when they are part of a pack.

  • The modest stature of the mongoose conceals its quite assertive personality. The creature is able to defend itself against deadly predators that are considerably larger or more aggressive than it is. One example is the ability to kill snakes, some of which are deadly. With their amazing speed and agility, these creatures can occasionally dodge or confuse lethal predators. Some species can run at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour.

  • The mongoose is more active during the daytime and it is during the daytime that they hunt and socialize with other species. Most of the mongoose spent their night fast asleep. Mongoose is also found to be very intelligent and playful especially when we consider the social settings. 

Mongoose Habitat 

  • A mongoose is considered to be an old-world animal that usually thrives largely in hot or tropical areas. The largest population of the mongoose can be found across the sub-Saharan and Eastern African regions which include other species of Mungotinae ad a few other species of Herpestinae. They are also extremely abundant over a large portion of southern Asia, from China to the Middle East. Southern Iberia, Indonesia, and Borneo are other popular destinations.

  • Mongooses are mostly terrestrial animals that live on the ground. They may be found in a wide range of temperatures and habitats, including tropical forests, deserts, savannas, and grasslands. There are, however, a few significant exceptions. Some species, such as the crab-eating mongoose, are semi-aquatic and spend a significant portion of their lives in or near water. They can swim with webs between their digits fairly well. Other species live in the trees, smoothly sliding between branches. Terrestrial mongooses, on the other hand, use their large non-retractable claws to dig into the earth. They spend a lot of time within the intricate network of tunnels they've built.

Mongoose Eating Habits

  • The mongoose is considered to be an opportunistic carnivore that will feed on a huge variety of different foods and it does not matter if it’s living or dead. Reptiles, tiny birds and mammals, amphibians, insects, worms, and crabs are examples. Some species, on the other hand, will supplement their meals with fruits, vegetables, roots, nuts, and seeds. If the chance arises, the animal will steal or dine on the kill of another creature.

  • Mongooses, intelligent animals, have learned to shatter open shells, nuts, or eggs by slamming them against rocks. It has the ability to pound a thing directly on a hard surface or to fling an object from a distance. This strategy is passed down from generation to generation, implying that it is a sort of transmissible culture.

  • However, the mongoose's diverse taste may be an issue for other species, and they are classified as invasive species in some locations.

Mongoose Reproduction and the Lifespan

  • Mongoose reproduction differs greatly between species since it is frequently a reflection of their social organization. Solitary mongooses only congregate to spawn at regular periods, generally once a year. The newborn pups may be raised by one or both parents. Large colonies, on the other hand, usually include a dominant member of the pack who has practically exclusive breeding rights to multiple females, or a single male-female dominating couple.

  • After mating, the female will give birth a few months later. She may have a litter of one to six pups at a time. Mongoose puppies grow up rapidly. The puppies will be reliant on their parents for several months after they have been weaned. A puppy's maturation might take anywhere from six months to two years.

  • Pups are brought into the colony at a young age in more sociable mongoose species. Several individuals will stay behind while foraging to safeguard the young. In some colonies, a pup may select a certain adult to give consistent nourishment and care. Individuals may even build lasting relationships with family and other colony or pack members.

  • The lifespan varies widely depending on the species, but a normal mongoose may live for around 10 years in the wild and maybe twice that in captivity which is nearly 22 years. 

Different Mongoose Species 

Below four of the most commonly found species of mongoose are given 

  • Indian Grey Mongoose: Also goes by the scientific name of Herpestes edwardsi is a native to the Indian subcontinent and West Asia. This mongoose usually inhabits open forests, scrublands, and also in farmers’ fields. The Indian grey mongoose is a species that is known for its ability to fight venomous snakes such as the cobra.

  • Meerkat: It is also known as the suricate and Suricata suricatta.Southern Africa is home to this little mongoose. They dwell in big villages made up of several families. They collaborate, with a few serving as lookouts while the rest seek food. If a meerkat detects danger, he will make a piercing, loud cry to alert the others to seek cover.

  • Egyptian Mongoose: It is also known as Herpestes ichneumon. The Egyptian mongoose is a native of the Iberian Peninsula, and it may be found along the Mediterranean coast between North Africa and Turkey. These mongooses seek insects, as well as birds and animals, by placing their noses on the ground and smelling until they find them. They then either wait for the insects to the surface and grab them, or they dig them out of the ground.

  • The Beaded Mongoose: It is also known as the Mungos mungo. The Banded mongoose may be found all throughout Africa, from the Sahel to southern Africa. It lives in huge groups of seven to forty individuals. They frequently build their dens in termite mounds. Because this species lives in big colonies, they prefer dens with many openings for better access and ventilation.

Mongoose Predators and Threat 

  • In the wild, the mongoose has just a few natural predators, such as raptors and large cats. Larger mongooses can fend off predators simply by being bigger, but smaller species, in particular, are vulnerable to predation by large carnivores. The mongoose is occasionally attacked by venomous snakes, but because of its agility and quickness, it is more than a match for the formidable reptile. Its versatility has allowed it to thrive in a variety of geographical zones throughout Asia and Africa. Some varieties of mongooses, however, are now diminishing owing to habitat degradation caused by human encroachment. They need a lot of room for burrows and social setups.

  • Human settlers brought mongooses across the world in the 19th and 20th centuries, notably to some oceanic islands such as Hawaii, to aid with pest control on plantations and farms. Although mongooses were seldom successful in their endeavour, it had the unintended consequence of driving most of the local fauna, including many unique bird species, to extinction. As a result, mongooses are regarded as one of the world's most invasive species, and various efforts have been undertaken to cull or reduce mongoose numbers in non-indigenous places.

Mongoose Population 

  • Although exact population counts are difficult to measure, many Mongoose species appear to be in good health all over the world. The Indian grey mongoose is the most common species. It can be found in a single uninterrupted span over the Indian subcontinent and southern Iran.

  • According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of Endangered Species, the Liberian mongoose is the only species that qualifies for vulnerable classification, with numerous other forms of mongooses being near threatened. The Malagasy mongoose, albeit not a real mongoose, is threatened in its natural environment, as other species have become endangered. For certain species to recover to their previous levels, habitat loss must be slowed or reversed.

FAQs on Mongoose

1. List Out All The Important Facts About The Mongoose?

Ans: Here are all the important facts related to the mongoose.

  • There are more than 30 different species of mongoose. While the majority of them are terrestrial, others are semi-aquatic or arboreal. Some species are nocturnal, while others are active throughout the day.

  • Mongooses have long bodies, small legs, rounded ears, tapering snouts, and long faces in general. Their hair is typically brown or grey, although some species have striped coats or ringed tails. They are extremely versatile creatures that prey on a wide range of species and thrive in a variety of settings.

  • Alarm cries are used by mongooses to alert others of the existence of danger. When they hear an alert, they will race to the nearest hole for shelter. Mongooses take turns being the sentinel, looking out for danger in species that dwell in groups.

  • Mongooses frequently reside in burrows, although they rarely dig them themselves, preferring to go into abandoned tunnels left by other animals.

  • According to new research conducted by academics from the University of Exeter, banded mongooses pass on foraging customs from generation to generation. Previously, this habit was supposed to be reserved for humans and so-called higher animals such as other primates.

  • In Ancient Egypt, the mongoose was a holy and respected animal. Mummified mongooses have been discovered in ancient graves, and depictions of mongooses may also be seen on burial urns.

  • Mongooses are incredibly fast and agile creatures. This enables them to effectively avoid snake attacks with relative ease.

  • Mongooses of several species utilize scent marks to identify their territory and indicate their reproductive status.

  • The male mongoose denotes independence and is the animal emblem of ‘Uttara Ashadha' in the Nakshatras of Vedic astrology.

2. Explain the Black Mongoose

Ans: The black mongoose or the Galerella nigrata is a species of mongoose that is found in Namibia and Angola. Although Thomas listed it as a distinct species in the year 1928, it is frequently considered a subspecies of the slender mongoose. A genetic study, however, has verified its classification as a distinct species. Evidence shows that the two species split roughly four million years ago, most likely as a result of some populations getting split when southern Africa's ecosystem changed. The black mongoose currently has a separate habitat in hilly parts of northwest Namibia and southwest Angola with big boulders and rocky outcrops known as inselbergs. And after remaining in the areas for millions of years, the black mongoose has now been highly specialized to survive or adapt to the harsh arid environment. 

Description of a black mongoose: The black mongoose looks similar to the slender mongoose, but its coat is almost totally black, with dark reddish colours on the flank. The black pelage is supposed to be an adaptation to help them blend in with the shadowy nooks between huge stones where they prey. It has a body mass of around 0.7 to 0.9 kg, a body length of approximately 6.4 to 7.0 cm, and a tail length of around 3.2 to 3.6 cm.

3. Explain the White Mongoose?

Ans: The white mongoose or the white-tailed mongoose or Ichneumia albicauda is a mongoose species (Herpestidae). It is the sole member of the Ichneumia genus.

The white-tailed mongoose weighs between 1.8 and 5.2 kg, on average 3.38 kg, has a head-and-body length of 53 to 71 cm, and a tail length of 40 to 47 cm. On average, it looks to be the longest and heaviest extant species of mongoose, while its linear and body mass metrics largely overlap with other bigger mongoose species, particularly the marsh mongoose in range of recorded body weights if not average weight. It has relatively long legs for a mongoose. The head is long and thin. It has huge, rounded ears that are positioned low on the sides of its head. It has a yellow to tan body colour with long black guard hairs, giving it a weathered grey look. The legs are dark distal to the tibiofemoral joint. The base of the long, bushy tail is brownish yellow, and the tail is white on the distal half. This appendage can account for up to 40% of the creature's total body length. The top lip and forepaws of this species are hairless. Teats are seen on females in fours.