Mongooses – What they are, types, characteristics and habitat

These peculiar animals are agile hunters, capable even of fighting venomous snakes. All mongooses are grouped in the same family, which has a great diversity of genera. However, although they are usually called that way, there is a group that is generally known as meerkats, which is a genus of the same family.


Keep reading this article and join us to learn interesting facts about mongooses, what they are, the types and the main characteristics of the group.

What is a mongoose?

Mongooses are carnivorous mammals, characterized by their peculiar agility and ability to hunt. In general, it is a small species (with a few exceptions). The mongoose is predominantly terrestrial and although it tends to act solitary, it can be grouped to optimize hunting times, indicating its peculiarity and success as a hunting animal.

taxonomic classification

Mongooses are divided into a significant number of genera, 14 in total, with 33 species, according to the World Mammal Species Report [1].

  • kingdom: animal
  • Edge: chordate
  • class: mammal
  • Order: carnivore
  • Family: herpestidae

As we mentioned, all species are generally called mongooses. However, there is a group of the same family that is known as meerkats, which correspond to the genus Meerkat, within which there is only one species.


The mongoose group is taxonomically related to the subordinate level with Viverrids.

Mongoose characteristics

These animals, in general, are the small ones, their lengths usually go from 23 to 75 cm and the weight from 1 to 6 kg. As for colouration, they are grey or brown with different intensities and exceptionally some species can have stripes. They have a coat that is not so long that it covers the entire body, including the tail, but which tends to thin out around the eyes, nose and mouth.

The head is small, as is the pointed muzzle. The nose and ears are also smaller, the latter not particularly erect. One characteristic is the presence of anal glands, which secrete a very unpleasant odour, as occurs in Viverrids, although in the latter it is due to the perianal glands.

Types of mongooses

Depending on the various genera that make up the Herpestidae family, we can mention some types of mongooses :

  • Bdeogale: It is a genus composed of three species, characterized by their longer hairs, unlike most of the rest of the group, as well as their peculiar furry tail. They are the long-tailed mongoose ( Bdeogale crassicauda ) Jackson’s mongoose ( Bdeogale Jackson ) and the black-footed mongoose ( Bdeogale nigripes ).
  • Crossarchus: Animals that are also known as Cusimanses are located here, such as the long-nosed mongoose ( Crossarchus obscurus ), which is a small animal.
  • Gabriella: they are commonly known as slender mongooses and here we find, among other species, the small grey mongoose ( Galerela powder ).
  • Herpes: members of this genus are known as mongooses, composed of a wide variety of species. Some examples are the Hindu grey mongoose ( Herpestes edwardsii ) and the common or Egyptian mongoose (Herpestes ichneumon ).
  • Meerkat: here we find one of the smallest mongooses, commonly known as Suricata and where only one species is found Suricata suricatta.

Mongoose customs

Some mongooses often have solitary habits. But, on the other hand, certain species are grouped together forming numerous colonies of up to 50 people. In these cases, it is common for them to form complex excavation systems. Another aspect related to their customs is that some may have arboreal habits.


They are mainly diurnal and terrestrial, although when they live near water bodies they can swim to find food. Some species more susceptible to predation develop surveillance systems, where members of the group guard the area and warn in the event of any danger.

Where does the mongoose live?

The magician is an animal native to Africa, Asia and Europe, so it has a wide range of distribution in these regions, depending on the various species that make up the group.

Mongoose habitat can be varied, developing in various ecosystems such as tropical forests, savannas, deserts, grasslands, swamps, riverbanks and lakes.

What does the mongoose eat?

The mongoose is a carnivorous predator, having a very abundant diet in this regard. In this way, it feeds on small mammals, birds, eggs, reptiles, fish, crabs, A wide variety of insects and some species can consume fruits.

This peculiar animal is usually known for its ability to kill and devour certain species of venomous snakes, even being unharmed from the attack received in these confrontations. Regarding the possible immunity against the venom of these reptiles, there are two explanatory ways.

The first indicates that they can be affected by this toxic substance, but they get rid of it thanks to their quick and agile movements, managing to really avoid the bite.


The second way is supported by some studies [2] that have shown the presence of a certain type of molecule in the muscle cells of mongooses, which prevents the fixation of certain venoms in them, thus avoiding muscle paralysis that commonly precedes death in this type. of injury.

Mongoose reproduction

Not all reproductive aspects of various mongoose species are precisely known. In general, these animals have a gestation period that can range from 42 to 105 days approximately. The litters tend to be of two youngsters but there are cases where they can be larger, up to five.

Some types of mongoose show aggressiveness among males when the female is ready to breed. On the other hand, members of certain groups also develop a courtship, in which the woman moves and runs in front of the man to attract him.

Sexual maturity varies, in some, it is reached relatively quickly in 9 months, while in others it can take up to two years.


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