Hedgehogs are a type of mammal known for its small body with spiny coat and short legs. These small critters range from a length of 10 to 30 centimeters and weigh from 155 to 1,584 grams. When threatened, they roll themselves into a ball.
Hedgehogs can survive in many different habitats and can be found throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, and New Zealand. They can live from 3 to 8 years in the wild and up to 10 years in captivity.
Table of Contents
- Fun Facts about Hedgehogs
The typical breed variety in the U.S. is usually one of two African species of hedgehogs. The first type is called four-toed hedgehogs, and they originated in the southern part of Africa, mainly in the desert areas. They are between seven and nine inches in length and can weigh up to 24 ounces.
There is also a North African species that get up to 14 inches long and can weigh up to 35 ounces. This type of hedgehog is often called the Algerian hedgehog, and it has five toes on the back feet and a face that is longer in shape than the hedgehogs found in the southern part of Africa. Both of these types, however, have white bellies and quills that are dark brown in color.
Asian and Desert Hedgehogs
The breed called the long-eared hedgehog is found mostly in Afghanistan, Turkestan, parts of Mongolia, and in areas of the Middle East such as Iraq, Israel, and Iran. The long-eared hedgehog is the smallest type of hedgehog, weighing in at only around seven ounces – although the largest ones can weigh up to 24 ounces.
It gets to roughly eight inches in length and has ears that are a bit different than other types of hedgehogs, being longer in length. It also has belly fur that is cream colored or dark brown in color. There is also a type of hedgehog that originated in the desert areas of Pakistan, India, Ethiopia, and the Middle East. This type has dark faces and sometimes a nose that is more pointed than other types of hedgehogs. They also have three subspecies and a pale color.
Native to the British Isles and other parts of Europe, the Erinaceus europaeus genus is mostly a countryside hedgehog, although they can also occasionally be found in suburban gardens. Despite having an average lifespan of 14 years, the average hedgehog in many areas lives only about two years, mostly because they get hit and killed by automobiles and because they lose their habitat.
European hedgehogs are between nine and 14 inches long, and they weigh around five pounds when fully grown, making them the largest of all hedgehog breeds. They are almost always brown in color and have furry faces and bellies. They also eat animals such as snails, beetles, and slugs.
All hedgehogs come from either Europe, Africa, or Asia, and they consist of four main types that encompass 15 different species. If you live in the Western part of the world, you are likely more familiar with the African and European species.
The European breed looks like the hedgehogs found in children’s books, which makes people want them more. In addition, the two African species are usually crossbred in the U.S. specifically to be pets. There are other types of hedgehogs, of course, and since there are laws that control hedgehog breeding in the United States, the most popular ones tend to fall in just one of only a handful of hedgehog types.
Native to the southeastern part of Russia, as well as China and Korea, the Amur hedgehog gets to roughly one foot in length and is pale brown in color. It is a common hedgehog and has similar characteristics to many other types of hedgehogs. It is called the Amur hedgehog because it is found in the lowland China area near the Amur Basin.
These types of hedgehogs prefer habitats such as lowlands and valleys, as well as high grass and forests which are both coniferous and broadleaf. They are more active at night than the daytime, and they eat mostly earthworms and other invertebrates. The Amur hedgehog usually lives for roughly eight years, and there are no major threats to this particular species.
Bare-bellied hedgehogs, or the Paraechinus nudiventris, were believed to be extinct until very recently when a few were found in India. Because of this, it is likely most people will never see a real bare-bellied hedgehog in their lifetime. These hedgehogs prefer areas that are dry, such as acacia and rocky areas. Their biggest threats seem to be agriculture, logging, wood fuel collection, and of course, urbanization. Bare-bellied hedgehogs grow to a little under a pound and nearly 10 inches in length, and they love scrubby jungles such as the ones found in southeastern India.
Also known as the Paraechinus hypomelas, the Brandt’s hedgehog grows to about 10 inches in length and has large ears and a dark body. It usually weighs just a little over two pounds as well. It is found in various parts of Afghanistan, Yemen, and Pakistan. If the Brandt’s hedgehog is attacked, it curls up in a ball, and it can also use a “jumping” action in order to surprise its attackers. It is a desert hedgehog and, therefore, prefers arid areas such as the mountains and the desert. It also hibernates when it’s cold, and it derives its name from the man who discovered it, Johann Friedrich von Brandt of St. Petersburg.
The Daurian hedgehog, or Mesechinus dauuricus, lives in northern Mongolia and in Russia. In fact, in these countries it is actually a protected breed, and it grows up to eight inches in length. It is quite common throughout the world, and there are no major threats to its survival, although they are rare in places such as Russia. Their diet consists of bird eggs, small rodents, small reptiles, and nestlings, and it is believed that their spines are able to protect them from certain threats. Most Daurian hedgehogs live about six years and get up to a little over a pound in weight. They live in dens and are mostly found in steppes and forests.
Found mostly in northern Africa and the Middle East, desert hedgehogs are very small – only getting up to around six inches in length. Despite its small size, however, the desert hedgehog is difficult to harm because when threatened, it curls up into a tight ball and makes its long quills protrude in all different directions. It can be light or dark in color, and it is also known as the Paraechinus aethiopicus.
These hedgehogs eat things such as baby snakes, various invertebrates, and even scorpions, although they do snip off the stingers first before eating them. Thanks to evolution, they have kidneys that are highly developed and therefore, they can go a very long time without water. Because of their ability to survive in numerous situations, they are one of the toughest hedgehogs out there.
Also called the African Pygmy hedgehog or the Atelerix albiventris, the hedgehog originated in the sub-Saharan regions of central Africa and is usually found in crop fields and savanna areas. They are completely white except for their dark head, and they have very short legs and four toes. At eight inches in length, these hedgehogs are smaller than other types, and they can swim, climb, and be very active and noisy.
They have quills that are embedded and, therefore, never shed, and they prefer a variety of habitats, including thickets, woodlands, bushes, suburban gardens, grasslands, and even agricultural land. Their vocalizations include various types of grunts, hisses, twitters, and snorts, and during mating, the males will use a bird-like call to attract females. They eat insects such as beetles and termites, as well as arthropods such as spiders, millipedes, and even scorpions. They have also been known to eat things such as fruits, earthworms, snakes, frogs, and fungi, among other things.
This type of hedgehog is found in central China, and it is also known as the Mesechinus hughi. It is sometimes called the Central Chinese hedgehog, as it is native to central China and Manchuria, and unlike most other hedgehogs, it looks for food even in the daytime and on days that are rainy. The Hugh’s hedgehog prefers the open areas associated with dry steppe, although they are also found in forests and shrubland. It is a carnivore with a diet that consists of various plants and animals, including invertebrates.
These hedgehogs are native to Pakistan and India and are known as the Paraechinus micropus. They have spots or patches on their faces and resemble raccoons. It prefers high mountain areas where a lot of water can be found, and it is a very fast animal, although not as fast as the long-eared hedgehog. The Indian hedgehog gets to roughly six inches long, and it has a varied diet that includes animals such as toads and frogs.
It weighs no more than one pound, and it is usually mostly brown with lighter shades of brown included in its body. The Indian hedgehog has a stocky body, short tail, a long snout, dark eyes, and large ears. Although it is small in nature, it has five digits on each leg and very strong claws. It doesn’t hibernate, but it can actually slow down its metabolism if its food becomes scarce. It can dig burrows that are 18 inches long, and they can crawl into these holes to protect themselves from their predators.
Indian Long-Eared Hedgehogs
The Hemiechinus collaris is very different from the regular long-eared hedgehog, as the name suggests. This type of hedgehog is found in very arid regions such as northwestern Indian and in Pakistan. It is a small hedgehog that is dark in color. One of its most unique characteristics is the way it impresses the females of the species because it does this by performing a type of ritual dance over the course of several days.
The Hemiechinus auratus is native to the Middle East, some areas of East Asia, and the Eastern Mediterranean area. It is a hedgehog that prefers moderate climates and has long ears and short spikes. Rather than curling up in a ball when defending itself, as other types of hedgehogs do, the long-eared hedgehog releases its spikes and then flees. It is also a very fast type of hedgehog, especially when compared to the common or other types of hedgehogs.
Northern White-Breasted Hedgehogs
This type of hedgehog is found throughout Eastern Europe, although today they can also be found in the Ukraine, Russia, and the Caucasus. Although similar to the European hedgehog, this type of hedgehog has a white chest and a jaw that looks somewhat different than other types. It prefers artificial habitats to natural ones and is usually found in parks, rural and urban gardens, shrubby vegetation, and the scrubby habitats found at the edges of forests.
Also called the Atelerix sclateri, the Somali hedgehogs have white bellies and legs that are usually either brown or black in color. The young are called hoglets, while adults are called either sows if they are females or boars if they are males. Although hedgehogs are loners and rarely found in groups, they call these groups arrays.
Southern White-Breasted Hedgehogs
Officially called the Erinaceus concolor, this type of hedgehog looks very similar to the European hedgehog, but includes a white spot either on its chest or its belly. Another difference is that the Southern White-Breasted hedgehog doesn’t dig, but instead it makes a nest of grass. It is found in Western Asia and Eastern Europe and besides these differences, its habits are very similar to the European hedgehog.
Fun Facts about Hedgehogs
Their Quills Are Significant
The average hedgehog has between 5,000 and 7,000 quills, which they can raise whenever they feel threatened and need to defend themselves.
Unlike Porcupine Quills
Porcupine quills are poisonous, but the quills on a hedgehog are not. Neither are they barbed, but a hedgehog’s quills are mostly hollow and have complex air chambers that make the quills both strong and light.
Various Types of Hedgehogs Exist
There is a total of 17 species of hedgehogs, and they can live up to 10 years in captivity.
Snakes Do Not Bother Hedgehogs
Although hedgehogs eat mostly berries and insects if they want to eat a snake they can. This is because hedgehogs are mostly immune to a snake’s venom, so they cannot be harmed by them.
The hedgehog was used in the beginning in place of the groundhog when determining how much cold weather remained because when German settlers got to the United States and couldn’t find a hedgehog, they began to use a groundhog instead. Since then, winter-weather predictions have belonged to the groundhog.
Human Behavior Can Be a Threat
Certain activity has had a big part in reducing the population of hedgehogs. These include the construction of roads, the increase in various agricultural activities, and simple increases in population. This is because hedgehogs do not live in the city, and since most areas are becoming more populated and are growing at tremendous rates all over the world, the population of hedgehogs is decreasing.
Hedgehogs and Fairy Tales
There is even a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm about a boy who is born half hedgehog. It is called Hans My Hedgehog. There is also another one entitled The Hare and the Hedgehog by the same writer.
Illegal in Some Areas
Hedgehogs are a popular choice for a pet, but many states consider them wild animals and, therefore, ban them. These states include New York City, Washington, D.C., Hawaii, Georgia, Pennsylvania, California, and Arizona. Some areas, such as Maine, allow people to keep hedgehogs as long as they have a permit for them.
Hedgehogs Need Glasses
Because hedgehogs have very poor eyesight, they rely on other senses, such as smell and hearing, more than they do their sight. They are also nocturnal animals, so their other senses are even more important than they are for most animals.
They Are Ravenous Eaters
Hedgehogs eat a lot; in fact, they can eat up to one-third of their body weight in just one day. They wake up around dusk and hunt for food during nighttime. They also eat everything from small mammals to reptiles and birds to eggs, to name a few.
Hedgehogs do not all hibernate, but many of them do. In fact, in Great Britain, they are only one of three mammals that hibernate; the other two are dormice and bats.
Quills That Gather Food?
A very long time ago, some artists portrayed hedgehogs gathering food with its quills, but this is an inaccurate portrayal. It made for a cute picture and has caused the image to be considered accurate even now, but this isn’t the way hedgehogs gather food.
Called IHOG, there used to be Olympic games made for the common hedgehog. Events included activities such as hurdles, sprints, and even floor exercises!
Hedgehogs Are True Loners
Hedgehogs are mostly loners, but when they do get together in large groups, those groups are called arrays. In fact, about the only time hedgehogs come together is when they wish to mate, making arrays fairly uncommon.
Hedgehogs Are Difficult to Catch Off Guard
Hedgehogs curl up in a ball and expose their quills when they wish to protect themselves from predators, and since they also sleep in a ball, they are rarely caught off guard. In most cases, it is impossible to pry them open, except if done by animals such as badgers.
Not Indigenous to Many Countries
Hedgehogs are not native to the United States, Australia, or New Zealand. In the latter, hedgehogs were actually introduced by humans.
It’s All in the Name
The way hedgehogs got their name is interesting. Hedgehogs prefer the garden hedge as a natural habitat, which gave them their name. Hedgehogs are also named because of the pig-like grunts they tend to make. They are especially popular in English gardens, mainly because of their taste for the insects that most people wish to eliminate from their gardens.
Named After Hedgehogs
Sea urchins are named after hedgehogs and in fact, baby hedgehogs are still called urchins. Hedgehogs were called urchins throughout the Middle Ages, so in effect, the name “hedgehog” is a relatively new one.
Hedgehogs for President
In New Zealand, the McGillicuddy Serious Party attempted to get a tiny hedgehog elected to Parliament, but they were naturally unsuccessful.
Hedgehogs can “self-anoint” when they experience unpleasant smells and odors, which involves rubbing their saliva on their quills. It is an odd behavior, and no one knows for sure why they do it.
Their Physical Characteristics Vary
Hedgehogs can grow from 4 to 12 inches in length and can be from 5 to 56 ounces in weight, depending on the species. Most hedgehogs are either white, light-brown, or black, and some even have a black mask around their eyes.
In some cultures, the hedgehog is used in traditional medicine and even in witchcraft. This occurs mostly in areas such as Africa and Eurasia. They can be boiled or roasted and eaten, and they are thought to help with afflictions such as arthritis and rheumatism. In fact, in the 1980s in Britain, hedgehog-flavored crisps were developed, even though they contained no actual hedgehog meat. The hedgehog meat, blood, and fat are all used for medicinal purposes.
Hedgehogs usually only come together during mating time, and the females have litters of one to eleven babies – called hoglets – each time. The babies stay with their mother only from four to seven weeks before going out on their own, and even though they usually move to a new nest if threatened, they sometimes do resort to eating their young.