While normally shy and retiring, Honey Badgers can sometimes without provocation become extremely aggressive. Normally docile individuals can suddenly, and for no apparent reason, develop ‘fury moods’, and return to docility just as suddenly.
I once encountered a Honey Badger late at night and out of curiosity wanted to have a closer look at it. As I pointed my torch at it, it suddenly and aggressively came towards me. When I intuitively switched off the torch, it turned away and disappeared into the dark. It was probably annoyed by the sharp light and intended to deal with it, but when the source of annoyance was removed its ‘fury mood’ dropped as suddenly as it flared up. It would appear that Honey Badgers are best left alone.
Their temperamental extremes are apparently related to their natural habits, contributing to their reputation for ferocity and fearlessness. They are courageous, and with their tough and loose hide, dangerous teeth and long strong claws, they are formidable opponents when aroused. There are accounts of a Honey Badger killing a Wildebeest, another killing a Waterbuck, and another killing a three-metre Python. An encounter between a Lion and a Honey Badger has been reported in which the Honey Badger was only killed after putting up a fierce defence. In encounters with dogs, Honey Badgers invariably come off best.