Badgers have rather short, wide bodies, with short legs for digging. They have elongated, weasel-like heads with small ears. Their tails vary in length depending on species; the stink badger has a very short tail, while the ferret badger’s tail can be 46–51 cm (18–20 in) long, depending on age. They have black faces with distinctive white markings, grey bodies with a light-coloured stripe from head to tail, and dark legs with light-coloured underbellies. They grow to around 90 cm (35 in) in length including tail.
The European badger is one of the largest; the American badger, the hog badger, and the honey badger are generally a little smaller and lighter. The stink badgers are smaller still, and the ferret badgers are the smallest of all. They weigh around 9–11 kg (20–24 lb), with some Eurasian badgers weighing around 18 kg (40 lb).
The as-yet unnamed Wisconsin mascot appeared as a human-like cartoon figure in University of Wisconsin publications in the 1930s. The most familiar portrayal of Bucky Badger, wearing a “W” sweater and strutting forward with a fierce expression, was drawn by California-based commercial artist Art Evans in 1940, and first sold from Brown’s Book Store in Madison. A popular version of Bucky sporting boxing gloves was first drawn by hometown Madison artist Thomas Spiece. An actual badger from Eau Claire was used at the first few football games that year, but proved to be too fierce to be controlled properly and was retired to the nearby Henry Vilas Zoo. After that, the school replaced the live badger with a live raccoon named Regdab (‘badger’ backwards). In 1948, a UW-Madison art student, Connie Conrad was asked to create a paper-mache Bucky head-piece. A UW-Madison Gymnast and cheerleader, Bill Sagal, wore the outfit at the homecoming game and a contest was started to properly name the mascot. The winning entry was Buckingham U. Badger. Bucky has been maintained over the years, even surviving a threat by the assistant attorney general, Howard Koop, who suggested that Bucky be replaced by Henrietta Holstein, a loveable cow.
The students (usually 7) who portray Bucky Badger are all volunteers, without scholarships or financial reimbursement, as is the system in some universities. Tryouts include tests of dancing skills, expressiveness in suit, ability to work with props, and the number of push-ups a candidate can do, as well as an interview and the ability to write and perform an original skit. The Bucky Team attends mascot training camp every year in August. They perform throughout the year, including breaks and holidays, representing the university and the state at athletic events, but also at ceremonies, parades, festivals, weddings, and even an occasional funeral.