Have you ever wondered why the mongoose can be bitten by poisonous snakes – and be totally fine? Or why…? Get all the answers here: 31 mongoose facts – all your questions answered!
31 Mongoose Facts: Your Questions Answered
While the mongoose may be adorable and furry, this animal is far from harmless. The first time I heard of a mongoose was the children's story Rikki-Tikki-Tavi.
In the book, the young mongoose protects the family from a cobra that would have (likely) killed the child.
These feisty little snake hunters are fascinating. Let me know your favorite fact in the comments, and ask me any questions you have and I will do my best to answer them!
1. What is a Mongoose?
A mongoose is a small, snake-killing, cat-like (feliformia) mammal. They are small, slender, and full of energy.
2. What is the plural of mongoose?
The plural of mongoose can be either mongooses or mongeese. “Mongooses” is definitely more common than “mongeese,” but both are ok.
The “mongeese” plural form of mongoose no doubt comes from the idea that mongooses were named after actual geese, and therefore the plurals should be the same. This isn't true, but “mongeese” is still an acceptable plural.
In fact, historically “mongoose” was spelled and pronounced “mungus,” but the “gus” was replaced with “goose” because it sounded more familiar to English speakers (a practice called folk-etymology).
It has also been spelled “mungoose.”
3. Is a Meerkat a Mongoose?
Not really. Mongooses and meerkats have some pretty distinctive differences. But, they are classified in the same family.
The meerkat (suricata suricatta) is a member of the mongoose family (herpestidae) and the meerkat the only member of the suricata genus.
4. What are the Differences Between a Mongoose and a Meerkat?
Meerkats may be a member of the mongoose family but they have some genus-specific differences to other mongooses.
Here are the differences between your typical mongoose and meerkat:
- Mongooses can tolerate a certain amount of snake venom, whereas meerkats can tolerate some scorpion venom. This is suited to their different living conditions.
- Mongooses live in many different places, while meerkats live mostly in dry deserts (like the Kalahari in Botswana, South Africa, and the Namib Desert) – where there are a lot of scorpions for them to eat.
- Mongooses have a rather bushy tail, but the meerkat's tail is more slender.
- Mongooses are avid snake hunters, but meerkats prefer scorpions.
- Meerkats have some pretty funky ears that they can close while they dig so their ears don't fill up with sand. The mongoose is missing this useful feature.
- Mongooses have many different color variations over the different varieties but meerkats generally look pretty much the same: a yellowish brown that blends in great to the dessert and the grasses.
- Meerkats have a more distinguished face than the smooth, fox-like face of the mongoose.
- Meerkats have round pupils whereas mongooses have long, thin pupils. In my opinion, the meerkats are a bit cuter than other mongooses :).
You can see some differences between a yellow mongoose and some meerkats in this video:
5. Are Mongooses Weasels?
No, mongooses aren't weasels, but they look similar.
The mongoose is a cat-like (feliformia) mammal, whereas weasels are dog-like (caniformia) mammals. Other dog-like mammals include skunks and ferrets.
6. Are Ferrets and Mongooses the Same Thing?
No, the ferret is not a mongoose or a member of the mongoose family. The mongoose family is herpestidae and the ferret family is mustelidae.
Mongooses and ferrets look fairly similar, but ferrets are commonly domesticated as pets and mongooses aren't.
Ferrets are obligate carnivores, which means that they can only digest meat and won't benefit from grains or vegetation. Mongooses can consume foods other than meat.
7. Is a Mongoose a Rodent?
No, a mongoose is not a rodent. One of the things that makes a rodent a rodent is that pair of goofy teeth (incisors) on their lower and upper jaws that are continually growing and continually need to be filed down.
Rodent is taken from the Latin word rodere, which means “to gnaw,” which is exactly what rodents have to do.
If they didn't gnaw, their teeth could grow so long that they actually begin to injure and even kill the animal.
Mongooses don't have these funky incisors, so they aren't rodents!
8. Are There Different Kinds of Mongooses? How Many?
Yes, there are 34 different species of mongooses, see them all in the next point.
9. What is the Mongoose's Latin Name?
The following is an alphabetically ordered list of the 34 mongoose species with their Latin names:
- Alexander's kusimanse, Crossarchus alexandri
- Angolan kusimanse, Crossarchus ansorgei
- Angolan slender mongoose, Galerella flavescens
- Banded mongoose, Mungos mungo
- Black mongoose, Galerella nigrata (recently added)
- Black-footed mongoose, Bdeogale nigripes
- Bushy-tailed mongoose, Bdeogale crassicauda
- Cape gray mongoose, Galerella pulverulenta
- Collared mongoose, Herpestes semitorquatus
- Common dwarf mongoose, Helogale parvula
- Common kusimanse, Crossarchus obscurus
- Crab-eating mongoose, Herpestes urva
- Egyptian mongoose, Herpestes ichneumon
- Ethiopian dwarf mongoose, Helogale hirtula
- Flat-headed kusimanse, Crossarchus platycephalus
- Gambian mongoose, Mungos gambianus
- Indian brown mongoose, Herpestes fuscus
- Indian gray mongoose, Herpestes edwardsii
- Jackson's mongoose, Bdeogale jacksoni
- Liberian mongoose, Liberiictis kuhni
- Long-nosed mongoose, Herpestes naso
- Marsh mongoose, Atilax paludinosus
- Meerkat, Suricata suricatta
- Meller's mongoose, Rhynchogale melleri
- Pousargues's mongoose, Dologale dybowskii
- Ruddy mongoose, Herpestes smithii
- Selous' mongoose, Paracynictis selousi
- Short-tailed mongoose, Herpestes brachyurus
- Slender mongoose, Galerella sanguinea
- Small Asian mongoose, Herpestes javanicus
- Somali slender mongoose, Galerella ochracea
- Stripe-necked mongoose, Herpestes vitticollis
- White-tailed mongoose, Ichneumia albicauda
- Yellow mongoose, Cynictis penicillata
If you're not done with Latin yet, here are the 14 genera of mongooses:
Keep in mind that the scientific classification system changes a lot more than you would expect so some of these genera may change over time.
10. Are Mongooses Venomous or Poisonous?
Mongooses are not venomous or poisonous, but they can fight venomous snakes and can tolerate a certain amount of snake venom.
Am I the only one that thinks these little guys deserve their own superhero? Mongoose boy or something? No…? I'm not a loser, you're a loser…
11. What's the Difference Between Poison and Venom?
Poison and venom are not the same things!! A lot of websites seem to use them interchangeably and while they are similar, there are some important differences that could mean life or death for animals like the mongoose:
- Venom is a very special type of poison that has to be injected into the bloodstream via sting or bite to be effective.
- Poison is effective whether it is inhaled, swallowed, or even if it's absorbed through the skin (by touching a poisonous frog, for example). An animal can be both poisonous and venomous, but this is quite uncommon.
So, theoretically, you could drink a glass of venom and survive because all your digestive acids would break it down. Don't try that though… it would be incredibly stupid.
Read more about the difference between venom and poison!
12. Are Mongooses Immune to Snake Venom?
No, mongooses are not immune to snake venom. But they can deal with a little bit of the venom.
To be immune to something basically means that whatever you're immune to can't touch you.
Mongooses are not truly immune to snake venom (as many resources will try to tell you) because they will die if they get bitten too much and get too much venom in their systems.
So, while mongooses can tolerate a small amount of snake venom (certainly enough to save their life more than a few times), mongooses are not immune to snake venom.
13. How Can a Mongoose Eat a Venomous Snake?
Mongooses can eat venomous snakes because the venom doesn't enter their bloodstream. Theoretically, we could also eat a venomous snake and survive. Theoretically.
To be effective, venom must enter the bloodstream (different than poison). So, if you were bitten by a venomous snake, you could be in some serious trouble.
But if you ate one, you might not have such a hard time; if you had an exceptionally strong stomach and gut lining and absolutely no cuts, nicks, or scrapes inside your mouth or throat.
~ Everywhere Wild does not encourage or support the consumption of snake venom, venomous snakes, or any life-threatening activities ~
The snake's venom producing sacs are located behind the eyes so if the head and some extra is chopped off you should be fine to eat the rest of the snake.
14. Are Mongooses Dangerous?
Mongooses are extremely dangerous… to snakes. They also eat endangered bird eggs and sea turtle eggs and carry some nasty diseases.
But they probably won't bother you if you don't get too close.
15. Are Mongooses Aggressive to Humans?
Not normally. Under normal circumstances, a mongoose would rarely if ever attack a human.
If they were infected with rabies, mongooses could go mad and could attack anything, but this is true of most mammals infected with rabies.
A normal mongoose would much rather run away from a fight with larger mammals (like people). If it felt cornered or threatened or if it feels you are threatening its pups, it may bite.
So basically: stay away from anything foaming at the mouth and don't threaten things with very sharp teeth and you'll be fine!
16. What Kind of Diseases do Mongooses Carry?
Mongooses carry rabies and leptospirosis. Both can be passed on to people and pets, so if you live in an area with mongooses be sure to never leave your pet unattended outside so it doesn't get bit.
17. Can I Have a Mongoose as a Pet?
It depends where you live, but you likely can't keep a mongoose as a pet without a permit. It is illegal to own a mongoose in the United States.
On hawaii.gov it states that it is illegal to “introduce, keep or breed any mongoose within the State except by permit from HDOA.” You could be fined up to $1000 for each mongoose you keep, introduce or breed!
Besides, it's generally not a good idea to keep wild animals as pets anyway. They are not normally domesticated, especially by the average dude with no experience and one too many beers. So don't kidnap exotic animals!
18. What is the Natural Enemy of the Mongoose? (What Eats a Mongoose?)
Snakes, hawks, marabou storks, leopards, and jackals are all predators of the mongoose.
Snakes will kill a mongoose to protect themselves, but cobras and black mambas are unlikely to actually eat the mongoose. Larger snakes such as pythons have been known to eat mongooses.
Marabou storks will hunt and eat mongoose pups, which they can swallow whole. The mongoose is very protective of their young and will fight off the 4 ft (1.5 m) tall storks by biting their ankles and hissing.
19. Why Are Snakes and Mongooses Enemies?
Snakes and mongooses are natural enemies because the mongoose has to kill the snake so the snake doesn't kill the mongoose and the snakes have to kill mongooses so the mongooses don't kill the snakes.
Basically, they each need to kill the other to survive so they kind of hate each other.
20. Who Would Win in a Fight Between a Cobra and a Mongoose? Why?
In a fight between a mongoose and a cobra, the mongoose would likely win. It is generally believed that a mongoose wins around 80% of its battles with snakes.
The mongoose wins because it has a very good strategy. The mongoose will provoke the snake by biting its tail and lunging at it until the snake is tired out.
Then the mongoose will go in and bite the head. For an experienced mongoose, it will only take one bite to crush the skull of the snake.
The times that the snake wins is generally when the mongoose is young or makes a mistake. If the snake can get in enough bites in, then it can kill the mongoose from an overload of venom.
21. What are a Group of Mongoose called?
A group of mongooses is called a “pack,” “gang,” or “mob”. A mongoose pack or mob can have more than 50 mongoose members.
A mongoose mob works like a family, each member has an important role and they share their food.
Some mongooses will stand as the guard and warn the pack to retreat to their burrows when others are in danger. Others will go hunting while others take care of the babies.
22. How Many Babies Can a Mongoose Have at a Time?
A mongoose can have 1-5 babies, called pups, up to 4 times a year.
Mongoose moms synchronize the birth of their pups and generally have them all on the same day to ensure that as many as possible survive.
If one mother has her pups out of sync with the others, she runs the risk of having her pups killed by another mother to eliminate competition for her pups.
23. How Many Years Does a Mongoose Live? Lifespan
Mongooses can live around 20 years in captivity and 6-10 years in the wild.
24. Where do Mongooses Live?
Mongooses live in southern Europe, Asia, Fiji, Africa, some areas in Spain, Puerto Rico, and some islands in Hawaii and the Caribbean.
25. What is the Habitat of the Mongoose?
Mongooses normally live in burrows with complicated underground tunnels, rock crevices, and occasionally in trees. There are even a few semi-aquatic mongooses that live around streams and rivers!
26. Why Was the Mongoose Brought to Hawaii?
Mongooses were brought to Hawaii by sugar cane farmers to try to control the rat population in their fields.
However, the mongooses preferred the native (and endangered) bird and turtle population to the rats and have become a real problem in Hawaii. There are an estimated $50 million in damages in Puerto Rico and Hawaii every year!
27. How Big is a Mongoose?
Mongooses vary in size depending on which of the 34 species we're talking about. However, they tend to average from about 20-70 cm (7-27 in) long.
28. How Much Does a Mongoose Weigh?
Again, this changes between the 34 species, but it can be anywhere from 0.3-4 kg (0.6-8 lbs).
29. How Fast is the Mongoose?
Mongooses can reach a top speed of roughly 20 mph (32 kph). This is a little difficult to get an exact measurement on, but it's in the realm of possibility :).
30. Is a Mongoose a Carnivore or an Omnivore? Mongoose Diet
Mongooses are not really carnivores, they are omnivores (they eat both vegetation and meat). They mainly feed on insects, with snakes being a favorite treat.
They also eat frogs, seeds, eggs, nuts, worms, small rodents, lizards, birds, crabs, and fruit.
31. Can a Mongoose Climb a Tree or a Wall?
Yes, mongooses can climb quite well, similar to cats.
They prefer to stay on the ground but can climb trees if they need to, and some even live in trees.
An Amazing Mongoose Scaring off 4 Lions
You can find a lot of crazy stuff on the internet.
Here is an amazing video of one small mongoose scaring off 4 large lions; and you know that I will never click-bait you ;).
I hope you have enjoyed learning about mongooses! Did I answer all your questions? Which fact was your favorite? Have something to add? Let me know in the comments!
Drew Haines is an animal enthusiast and travel writer. She loves to share her passion through her writing. She graduated high school at sixteen and started her own business, Everywhere Wild Media. And she runs Everywhere Wild and JustBirding. She also guest blogs on Storyteller.Travel
She lived in Ecuador for 6 years and explored the Galapagos Islands. Currently based in N.S., Canada.