5 Amazing Facts About the Mongoose

The mongoose may be small, but this carnivorous African native is mighty and stands up against the most venomous snakes!

Sep 28, 2023byAmy Brannan
facts mongoose

Best known as the star of Rudyard Kipling’s tale Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, the mongoose is a cat-sized critter with an incredibly potent smell. But odor aside, this agile mammal is an intelligent problem solver and keen hunter.

From its complicated family life to being the inspiration behind the Lion King’s Timon, here are five things you should know about the mongoose.

The Banded Mongoose Is a Real Life Timon

banded mongoose

Although Timon is a meerkat in the beloved Lion King movie, the banded mongoose is the inspiration behind the character. The banded mongoose is a native African species well-known for forming symbiotic relationships with warthogs, just like Timon did with Pumba.

Like many creatures on African grasslands, warthogs get plagued by ticks; fortunately, they have formed a mutually beneficial relationship with the banded mongoose. A banded mongoose provides a grooming service for the warthog, and in exchange, it gets plenty of ticks to eat!

Known scientifically as the Mungos mungo, the banded mongoose also feasts on millipedes and beetles and can travel as far as five miles daily to find food. No matter how far it travels, this mongoose has no trouble finding a home, as it claims any vacant shelter it can find!

The Dwarf Mongoose is a True Family Animal

dwarf mongoose

The dwarf mongoose is native to South and East Africa, living in the woodlands and the savannah. Measuring just ten inches long, this is the smallest mongoose species, but do not let its size fool you! This territorial creature can go to extremes when warring with neighboring packs going as far as to kill their young.

A very social animal with its own family, the dwarf mongoose lives in a pack led by a matriarch and her mate. Only the matriarch and her mate reproduce. The rest of the dwarf mongoose pack takes on roles as helpers, carrying and caring for the young and cleaning the den.

The average pack size for the dwarf mongoose is twelve, but some packs have grown to as many as thirty-two animals! These larger mongoose packs often push out small neighboring packs if the two go head-to-head.

The Meerkat is Immune to Venom

meerkat mongoose

Many people do not know that meerkats are a species of mongoose, so it is hardly surprising that these curious critters are imm

une to some types of snakes and scorpion venom. This scorpion venom immunity is helpful when it comes to mealtime!

Despite their venom immunity, meerkats seldom chase down snakes, and confrontations usually happen when a snake threatens an individual in the meerkat mob. When this happens, the meerkat group will surround the snake and make loud noises to disorient and drive it away.

Meerkats are not immune to all snake venom, though, and a well-aimed strike from a Cape cobra or a puff adder can spell doom for this feisty omnivore.

The Yellow Mongoose is an Incredible Architect

yellow mongoose
Image credit: Image by wirestock on Freepik

Unlike meerkats and dwarf mongooses, the yellow mongoose lives a solitary or paired life. Native to the grasslands and scrubland of South Africa, this mongoose is the only mongoose species in the Cynictis genus and has at least twelve subspecies.

Despite living a solitary or paired life, this mongoose species makes its home in a complex burrow system. Skilled diggers, these mongooses make burrows with up to forty different entrances and tunnels that reach up to five feet deep.

The yellow mongoose often shares its burrow with ground squirrels, and – when there is enough to go around, it also shares food. As well as the ground squirrel, the yellow mongoose may share its living space with meerkats.

The Indian Mongoose Inspired Rikki-tikki-tavi

indian mongoose

A more unique-looking mongoose species, the Indian mongoose inspired Rudyard Kipling’s story “Rikki-tikki-tavi.” A tale from The Jungle Book collection that tells of a young Indian mongoose that must rescue his adoptive family from two cobras.

The grey-coated mongoose species is native to India and West Asia, and like the story, it is not afraid to take on the king cobra, and in close to 80% of encounters, the mongoose comes out on top! While the cobra has no interest in eating the mongoose, the mongoose will happily feed on a king cobra.

An adept hunter, this mongoose has been introduced to various countries as rodent control. While it did control rodent populations, unfortunately, this avid hunter also caused many native species of bird to go extinct or reach dangerously low numbers. So devastating was its impact that the International Union for Conservation of Nature labeled the yellow mongoose as one of the top one hundred “World’s Worst” invasive species.

Amy Brannan
byAmy Brannan

Affectionately referred to as “Snow White” by family and friends, Amy has always connected with animals of all species. In addition to being a lifelong dog mom, Amy has nursed possums, chipmunks, rabbits, and squirrels back to health - much to the chagrin of her black Labrador, Jet. When she is not caring for her animals, Amy advocates pet adoption and educates others on the joys of senior dog ownership.