Today I’m going to talk about some of the mongooses that live in India, in particular the indian grey mongoose (Herpestes edwardsii), the indian brown mongoose (Herpestes fuscus), and the small indian mongoose (Herpestes javanicus).
As the name suggests, the small indian mongoose is the smallest, while the indian brown is the largest. The same ordering applies to their range: the small indian mongoose (as indicated by its other names, like small Asian mongoose or Javan mongoose) is found across most of the southern half of Asia, from Iran to Indonesia. The larger indian brown mongoose is restricted to southern India and Sri Lanka, while the intermediate indian grey mongoose is more widespread than the brown but less than the small, but still covering all of India and a bit beyond.
The three also differ in their preferred habitat. The brown one prefers thick forests, the grey one likes bushes and long grass, and the small one is happy pretty much anywhere.
The grey and small species are the mongooses most likely to be seen fighting cobras for the amusement of bloodthirsty humans. The most famous literary mongoose is, I believe, an indian grey – Rikki-Tikki-Tavi of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘jungle book’. This story tells of how fantastic it is when the native mongoose risks death to defend the invading British from resentful cobras who had previously enjoyed having the garden to themselves. Despite the cobras being there first, they must die so that the humans can be safe. As you may have picked up, I am not entirely in agreement with every aspect of Kipling’s worldview.