Indian grey mongoose
Adult in Hyderabad
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Family: Herpestidae
Genus: Urva
U. edwardsii
Binomial name
Urva edwardsii
Indian grey mongoose range

Ichneumon edwardsii
Herpestes edwardsii

The Indian grey mongoose or Asian grey mongoose (Urva edwardsii) is a mongoose species native to the Indian subcontinent and West Asia. It is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.[1]

The grey mongoose inhabits open forests, scrublands and cultivated fields, often close to human habitation. It lives in burrows, hedgerows and thickets, among groves of trees, and takes shelter under rocks or bushes and even in drains. It is bold and inquisitive but wary, seldom venturing far from cover. It is an excellent climber and usually lives singly or in pairs. Its prey includes rodents, snakes, birds’ eggs and hatchlings, lizards and a variety of invertebrates. Along the Chambal River it occasionally feeds on gharial eggs. It breeds throughout the year.


The Indian grey mongoose has tawny grey or iron grey fur, which is more grizzled and stiffer and coarser than that of other mongooses. The ruddiness of the coat varies in different subspecies, but it is described as appearing more grey than other mongooses. The grizzled appearance comes from the individual hairs being ringed by creamy-white and black. The legs are brown and darker than the body. The hair around the muzzle and eyes is also brown but with a stronger rusty red colouring. The tail is bushy, whilst the tip of the tail, if coloured, is pale yellow or white.[2][3][4]

Their tail length equals their body length. Body length: 36–45 cm (14-17 inches) Tail length: 45 cm (17 inches), weight: 0.9-1.7 kg (2-4 lb). Males are significantly larger than the females. Indian grey mongooses are unusual in that they can discriminate four colours, more than most other mammals.[5]

Distribution and habitat

It has been generally accepted that the Indian grey mongoose occurs in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, as represented by the distribution map.[1][6][7] A 2007 study found specimens also in Turkey, and United Arab Emirates, thus extending the known range.[8]

Despite being a common animal, the natural history of the Indian grey mongoose is not well known.[1] They appear to be able to occupy a wide variety of habitats but preferring open types. These include grasslands, open areas, rocky patches, scrub, semi-desert, cultivated fields and other disturbed areas, areas of thickets, bushy vegetation, dry secondary forest, thorn forest, forest edges, and also near human settlement.[3][4][9] Although the creature has been described as being less dependent on human settlements, observations in India in heavily forested areas show it to be much more common around human settlements often scavenging on waste.[10]


Ichneumon edwardsii was the scientific name proposed by Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire in 1817.[11] It was later classified in the genus Herpestes, but all Asian mongooses are now classified in the genus Urva.[12]


Ecology and behaviour

The Indian grey mongoose is omnivorous, though most of its diet is made up from live prey it catches from being an opportunistic hunter, with mice, rats, lizards, snakes, and beetles making up the bulk. Also eaten are ground birds, their eggs, grasshoppers, scorpions, centipedes, frogs, crabs, fish, and parts of plants: fruits, berries, and roots, as well as larger prey including hares and egrets.[13] It kills prey by delivering a bite to the neck or head.

The illustration of Indian grey mongoose and cobra

This species is known for its ability to combat venomous snakes. It primarily achieves this through tiring the snake out, by enticing it to make multiple strikes which it acrobatically avoids.[2][13] Secondary protection against the venomous bite includes the stiff rigid hair, which is excited at such times, the thick loose skin and specialised acetylcholine receptors render it resistant or immune to snake venom.[14] When dealing with scorpions, no measures are taken to disable the sting, and they are picked up in any manner.[15]

The Indian grey mongoose typically opens eggs by holding them between the paws and biting a hole in the little end.[15] Smaller mongooses typically open eggs by throwing them between their legs against a hard object, so it has been speculated,[15] that the adult Indian grey mongoose should do likewise with large eggs.

Inquisitive Indian grey mongoose pups at Lucknow Zoological Park.

The Indian grey mongoose mates between March and October, it breeding two to three times each year. The gestation period lasts for 60 to 65 days, the female gives birth to two to four offspring.[13]

The lifespan of the Indian grey mongoose is seven years in the wild, or 12 years, when in captivity.[13]

Relation with humans

The Indian grey mongoose is often kept as a pet to keep dwellings free from rats and other pests.[16]

The Indian grey mongoose is the state animal of Chandigarh.[17]

The species is protected in India, but an illegal trade in hair for the purposes of making of paint brushes and shaving brushes continues, and this is one of its most significant threats.[1][18] About 3000 mongoose were killed to produce 155 kg. of raw mongoose hair, which were seized by Uttar Pradesh Forest Department and Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) in 2018.[19]


The Indian grey mongoose is called muṅgūs or maṅgūs in classical Hindi;[20] muṅgūsa in Marathi;[21] mungi in Telugu;[22] mungi, mungisi and munguli in Kannada.[23]

In popular culture

"Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" is a short story by Rudyard Kipling about the adventures of a valiant young Indian grey mongoose.[24]


  1. ^ a b c d e Mudappa, D. & Choudhury, A. (2016). "Herpestes edwardsii". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T41611A45206787. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-1.RLTS.T41611A45206787.en. Retrieved 17 February 2022.
  2. ^ a b Sterndale, Robert A. (1884). "No. 236 Herpestes Pallidus vel Griseus The Common Grey Mungoose". Natural history of the Mammalia of India and Ceylon. Calcutta: Thacker, Spink.
  3. ^ a b Hussain, Riaz; Mahmood, Tariq (20 October 2016). "Comparative Ecology of Two Sympatric Mongoose Species (Herpestes javanicus and H. edwardsii) in Pothwar Plateau, Pakistan" (PDF). Pakistan Journal of Zoology. 48 (6): 1931–1943. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2017-01-02. Retrieved 2 January 2017.
  4. ^ a b Menon, Vivek (2014). Indian Mammals: A Field Guide. Gurgaon: Hatchet Book Publishing India. ISBN 978-93-5009-761-8.
  5. ^ Ewer, R. F. (1973). The carnivores. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. pp. 124–125. ISBN 0297995642.
  6. ^ Hinton, H. E.; Dunn, A. M. S. (1967). Mongooses. Their Natural History and Behaviour. Los Angeles: University of California Press. p. 117.
  7. ^ Sharma, Gaurav; Kamalakannan, M.; Venkataraman, K. (1 July 2015). A checklist of mammals of India with their distribution and conservation status. Kolkata: Govt. of India.
  8. ^ Veron, G., Patou, M.-L., Pothet, G., Simberloff, D. and Jennings, A.P. (2007). Systematic status and biogeography of the Javan and Small Indian Mongooses (Herpestidae, Carnivora). Zoologica Scripta 36: 1–10.
  9. ^ Duff, Andrew; Lawson, Ann (2004). Mammals of the World: A Checklist. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. p. 117. ISBN 0-300-10398-0.
  10. ^ Shekhar, K. S. (October 2003). "The status of mongooses in central India". Small Carnivore Conservation. 29: 22–24. Archived from the original on 5 January 2017. Retrieved 5 January 2017.
  11. ^ Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, É. (1817). "De l'Ichneumon. Ichneumon pharaon". In Jomard, E. F. (ed.). Description de l'Égypte, ou, Recueil des observations et des recherches qui ont été faites en Égypte pendant l'éxpédition de l'armée française. Vol. Tome II. Paris: Commission des Sciences et Arts d'Egypte. pp. 137–144.
  12. ^ "ASM Mammal Diversity Database". Archived from the original on 2020-10-28. Retrieved 2021-07-08.
  13. ^ a b c d Graham, E. (2004). "Herpestes edwardsi Indian grey mongoose". Animal Diversity Web. University of Michigan. Archived from the original on 25 January 2017. Retrieved 23 December 2016.
  14. ^ "How the Mongoose Defeats the Snake". Archived from the original on 2013-02-09. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
  15. ^ a b c Ewer, R. F. (1973). The carnivores. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. pp. 198–200. ISBN 0297995642.
  16. ^ Lal, Ranjit (20 September 2015). "Mongooses are fierce hunters as well as great pets". The Indian Express. New Delhi. Archived from the original on 23 December 2016. Retrieved 23 December 2016.
  17. ^ "State Animal, Bird, Tree and Flower of Chandigarh" (PDF). Department of Forests & Wildlife. Chandigarh Administration. Archived (PDF) from the original on 22 December 2018. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
  18. ^ "Mongoose hair brushes worth over Rs 35 lakh seized". The Times of India. Kolkata. 23 August 2017. Archived from the original on 31 August 2017. Retrieved 14 September 2017.
  19. ^ "Preying on mongoose: Every year, 50,000 animals are killed for making brushes | india news | Hindustan Times". 2016-04-22. Archived from the original on 2023-03-05. Retrieved 2019-02-13.
  20. ^ Platts, J.T. (1884). "منگوس मुंगूस muṅgūs, or मंगूस maṅgūs. The Mongoose, or ichneumon, Viverra ichneumon". A dictionary of Urdu, classical Hindi, and English. London: W. H. Allen & Co. p. 1081. Archived from the original on 2021-01-30. Retrieved 2020-07-29.
  21. ^ Molesworth, J. T. (1857). "मुंगूस muṅgūsa, Bengal Mungoose, Viverra Ichneumon, or Herpesteus Griseus". A dictionary, Marathi and English (Second, revised and enlarged ed.). Bombay: Printed for Government at the Bombay Education Society's Press. p. 384. Archived from the original on 2021-01-30. Retrieved 2020-07-29.
  22. ^ Brown, C.P. (1903). "ముంగి or ముంగిస mungi. The ichneumon or mongoose, a kind of weasel. Viverra ichneumon". A Telugu-English dictionary (New, thoroughly revised and brought up to date second ed.). Madras: Promoting Christian Knowledge. p. 997. Archived from the original on 2020-10-19. Retrieved 2020-07-29.
  23. ^ Reeve, W. & Sanderson, D. (1858). "ಮುಂಗಿ, ಮುಂಗಿಸಿ, ಮುಂಗುಲಿ". A dictionary, Canarese and English (Revised, corrected and enlarged ed.). Bangalore: Wesleyan Mission Press. p. 787. Archived from the original on 2023-03-05. Retrieved 2020-07-29.
  24. ^ Kipling, R. (1894). "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi". The Jungle Books. London: Macmillan. Archived from the original on 2021-04-16. Retrieved 2021-08-17.