mongoose (MAHN'goos') n., pl. mongooses
Mongooses are small carnivores of the family Viveridae. There are about 30 different species, almost all native to Africa.

Mongooses typically have a pointed head, a long tail, and thick hair except on the lower legs. They are commonly terrestrial, diurnal, and solitary. Mongooses feed on a wide variety of foods, including small mammals, reptiles, birds' eggs, and insects. The Indian gray mongoose, H. edwardsi, which may grow to 20 inches long plus a 16 inch tail, and weigh about 5 pounds, is the one portrayed in Kipling's Jungle Book.

Mongooses of this genus are famous for their snake-fighting ability and are often portrayed fighting a cobra. Research has shown that although the mongoose is tolerant of small dosages of cobra venom, it is not immune to it. Mongooses are almost always victorious because of their speed, agility, and timing and also because of their thick coat.

I have had the login name "mongoose" since I was a freshman at MIT in 1987. I had to come up with a login name for my Athena account and started thinking of animal names. I finally remembered Rudyard Kipling's story Rikki-tikki-tavi from The Jungle Books, volume two. It was perfect.

"He was a mongoose, rather like a little cat in his fur and his tail, but quite like a weasel in his head and his habits."

"He was afraid for the minute; but it is impossible for a mongoose to stay frightened for any length of time ... he knew that all a grown mongoose's business in life was to fight and eat snakes. Nag knew that too, and at the bottom of his cold heart he was afraid."

"His war cry, as he scuttled through the long grass, was: 'Rikk-tikk-tikki-tikki-tchk!'"

Wes Huang
January 29, 1997