Mongoose: Key Facts

Did you know that the word “mongoose” actually refers to nearly three dozen distinct species of animal? Or that mongooses will eat a wide variety of animals, insects, and plant matter? Read on to learn more about these and other mongoose key facts!

Quick Facts About Mongooses

Scientific ClassFeliformia
Number of Species34
Physical DescriptionSmall carnivorous mammal with a long body, short stubby legs, and long pointed tail. They have small, rounded ears, pointed snouts, and large mouths with sharp teeth. They are covered in short fur, usually brown or grayish brown in color. They walk on all fours and live in burrows that they create or take over from other animals.
DistributionWidely distributed throughout Africa; also found in parts of Europe and Asia.
HabitatCan live in a variety of habitats including plains, deserts, wetlands, and forests. 
Average Size– Length: 7 to 28 inches
– Weight: 10 ounces to 9 pounds
Average Lifespan5 to 10 years in the wild; up to 20 years in captivity.
DietOpportunistic carnivore; foods include:
– Small mammals
– Reptiles, especially snakes
– Birds
– Bird and reptile eggs
– Fruit
Largest SpeciesWhite-tailed mongoose
Smallest SpeciesCommon Dwarf mongoose

What Are Mongooses?

Mongooses are carnivorous mammals known for their fierce nature and their tendency to eat anything and everything. They are covered in short fur, have pointed faces and large mouths that house rows of sharp teeth.

Some mongooses, such as the Indian gray mongoose, are known for hunting and eating poisonous snakes. They also eat a variety of other animals which they hunt, scavenge, and steal from other predators.

Mongooses live in a variety of environments throughout Africa, southern Europe, and southern Asia (and even Hawaii). They are highly adaptable to their surroundings and have spread rapidly in other parts of the world where they have been introduced, such as the Caribbean islands.

Mongooses live in colonies of up to 50 individuals, congregating in burrows that they build or take over from other animals. Some mongooses also live in hollowed out trees or termite mounds.

Check out this video of a large mongoose colony chasing a young lion.

How Many Species of Mongoose Are There?

According to Safaris Africana, there are 34 distinct species of mongoose, most of which live in Africa, though as noted above, some can also be found in parts of Europe and Asia.

The 34 species belong to 14 separate genera. The most well-known genus is the Herpestes, which contains 10 of the mongoose species, including the Indian gray and the Egyptian mongooses.

The meerkat, another well-known type of mongoose, belongs to the Suricata genus. Still another group of mongooses, known as the Malagasy mongooses, are only found on Madagascar.


There are many different types of mongooses. All of them are relatively small carnivorous mammals covered in fur and known for their fierce hunting skills. Here is our comparison of mongoose vs ferret.

Read also about other forest mammals – here are our guides about sloth, wolf, armadillo.

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