mongoose

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.
Save to active project

mongoose

mongoose, name for a large number of small, carnivorous, terrestrial Old World mammals of the civet family. They are found in S Asia and in Africa, with one species extending into S Spain. Mongooses are fierce, active hunters, feeding on a variety of ground-living animals, as well as eggs, and, in some species, fruits. They live in a variety of habitats and occupy rock crevices or holes, or dig burrows. Unlike civets, they lack scent glands. Typical mongooses, species of the genus Herpestes, are weasellike in appearance, with long, slender bodies, pointed faces, and bushy tails. Their hair is coarse and shaggy. They range in length from 11/2 to 31/2 ft (45–106 cm) including the tail, which is about as long as the head and body. The Indian gray mongoose, H. edwardsi, is known for its ability to kill snakes, including cobras. A medium-sized mongoose, it lives in arid rocky or brushy areas, or cultivated pastures. When attacking a snake, the mongoose provokes it to strike repeatedly, avoiding it by agile dodging; when the snake is exhausted the mongoose seizes its head in its jaws and crushes the skull. Skill in evading the snake is learned, and young mongooses often die of snakebite. However, ingested snake venom is harmless to the mongoose, which eats the snake's head and venom glands. The Indian mongoose is easily tamed and is often kept as a pet and a destroyer of household vermin. Imported into the West Indies to kill rats, it destroyed most of the small, ground-living native fauna. Because of their destructiveness, it is illegal to import mongooses into the United States, even for zoos. The Egyptian gray mongoose, or ichneumon, H. ichneumon, is a large species common in most of Africa and in S Spain. It lives in damp, forested regions and preys on small terrestrial and freshwater animals. The ancient Egyptians domesticated this mongoose, which they considered sacred. The marsh mongoose, Atilax paludinosus, lives near bodies of water in Africa and dives for food. The meerkat (Suricata suricatta), or suricate, is a social mongoose of S African grasslands; meerkats live in large communal burrows and prey chiefly on insects and other small invertebrates. Mongooses are classified in approximately 12 genera of the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Carnivora, family Viverridae.

See H. E. Hinton and A. Dunn, Mongooses (1967); A. Rasa, Mongoose Watch (1985).

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

mongoose
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?