So which is it to be – a Nigel Farage-sized badger, or 10 badger-sized Farages? This is a really great question, far better than the classic horse-sized duck. The problem with the duck is that it won’t scale; anything broadly duck-like that got as big as a horse would be hopelessly immobile on its funny little legs and probably wouldn’t be able to fly, both because it couldn’t sustain the cardiorespiratory effort and because it would need a hell of a lot of wing area. Also, imagine the take-off waddle.
I’d be tempted to opt for the horse-sized duck, in fact, because it probably can’t exist in a world where physics works like it does here, and a walkover is a win, while chasing down the duck-sized horses would be a lot of work even though they aren’t much of a threat. The classic folktale trickster-god way out of this would be to confront you with the horse-sized duck in the water, where its weight wouldn’t be a problem and it could use its wings underwater like a penguin. But I digress.
A Farage-sized badger, however, is much more problematic than either. I can’t see any show-stoppers in scaling the badger up, and there’s a word for a creature a bit like a badger that stands 2 metres tall: it’s a bear. Badgers are pretty robust, powerful creatures that move enormous amounts of earth, and they have big claws. I don’t like the sound of that much.
However, the badger-sized Farages are going to be troublesome, too, because Nigel Farage is human. I was going to say that the decision here comes down to whether you think brute force or intelligence is more dangerous, but then I remembered that people basically eliminated their biological competitors because:
1) We cheat – using weapons, cooperating, re-designing the landscape itself, being best mates with dogs, all that stuff
2) We run – not many other creatures do endurance running at all well. there are plenty that sprint, and plenty that travel very long distances slowly, but running miles at a high pace is a speciality of ours.
Even a scaled-down Farage is going to be intelligent – the lower bound would be as smart as a chimp, say, the upper would be as smart as he is now. This is an important point, because intelligent badger-sized creatures can gang up on you, form plans, adopt tactics, and use weapons. Fighting the badger-sized Farages might be as bad as fighting a group of reasonably-sized monkeys at one end of the scale, not trivial, or as bad as fighting a group of angry dwarves at the other, basically war.
I could ambush the super-badger, trap it, poison it, flood or smoke out its sett, set dogs on it, or snipe at it from a distance. I could adopt persistence predation, the human killer app, and keep it on the run until it tires. Also, I could outrun it over anything more than a very short sprint, so unless it got lucky, I’d probably have the initiative over it and be able to decide how much risk to take.
But assuming the mini-Farages’ physiology is basically human, they will be able to run the persistence predation playbook back against me, with the advantage of being a team, so they would probably control the initiative. In a brawl I would have the advantage over up to three of them, but it only takes one stab wound or unlucky blow to the head, and they’re people – when it matters, we cheat. I’m confident I can run faster and further than a mini-Farage, but then, I’m now thinking about running away from them. They have the initiative.
To put it another way, what if either super-badgers or mini-Farages were historical creatures? I would bet that the super-badger would be long extinct, known from fossils and possibly cave art depicting gangs of people and dogs chasing down the poor sods, but markers of the mini-Farage would probably still be detectable in the human genome. (Now that’s a depressing thought.) I’ll be watching that big hole in the ground, in my trainers.