Mongoose, any of more than 20 species of agile, weasel-like animals that are native to Africa, Asia, and Spain. Mongooses usually live in burrows or hollow trees and eat small animals and fruit. Some are active during the day, others at night.
Mongooses range in body length from about 8 to 24 inches (20 to 60 cm); tail length is somewhat less. Their fur is usually brown or gray and marked with dark stripes. Mongooses give birth up to four times a year; one to six young are born each time.
The Indian gray mongoose attacks and eats venomous snakes; it is found from the Arabian peninsula to Nepal. The white-tailed mongoose of Africa cracks open bird's eggs by throwing them against hard objects.
Two other African mongooses are the slender-tailed meerkat, or suricate, and the red meerkat, or yellow mongoose (a species that changes color in the spring and fall). These species live in large colonies; often members of both species live in the same colony.
The ichneumon is a mongoose that was revered by the ancient Egyptians.
Mongooses belong to the family Herpestidae. The Indian gray mongoose is Herpestes edwardsi; the white-tailed mongoose, Ichneumia albicauda; the slender-tailed meerkat, Suricata suricatta; and the red meerkat, Cynictis penicillata.