Scientific Name: Atelerix albiventris
Size: Head and body, 5 to 12 in (13 to 30 cm); Tail, 1 to 2 in (3 to 5 cm)
Weight: 14 to 39 oz (397 to 1,106 g)
Lifespan: 10 years in captivity
Habitat: Variety of climates and terrains
There are some 15 species of hedgehog in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Hedgehogs have also been introduced into nontraditional ranges such as New Zealand. The hedgehog was named because of its peculiar foraging methods. These animals root through hedges and other undergrowth in search of the small creatures that compose the bulk of their diet.
What does a Hedgehog look like?
Hedgehogs have a coat of stiff, sharp spines. If attacked they will curl into a prickly and unappetizing ball that deters most predators. They usually sleep in this position during the day and awaken to search for food at night.
"Small enough to fit in your hands but too prickly to hold" is a good description of the hedgehog. Though small, it is by no means defenseless. Thousands of stiff, sharp spines-harder and sharper than those of a porcupine-cover the animal's back and sides, like a pincushion filled with needles.
Even though spines, or quills, provide the hedgehog with effective protection, the animal's most striking characteristic is its practice of curling up into a tight ball, with its spines sticking out in all directions. When the hedgehog rolls up, a special, highly developed circular muscle that runs along the sides of the body and across the rump and neck contracts and forms a "bag" into which the body, head and legs are folded. The hedgehog curls up if disturbed or frightened-only the strongest predators, such as the badger, can pry it open. It also sleeps in this position, so is rarely caught unprotected.
Where do Hedgehogs live?
Hedgehogs inhabit a wide range across a variety of climates and terrains in East Africa. Although not found in the Americas, other species of hedgehogs live in different parts of Africa, Europe and Asia, as well as in New Zealand, where they have been introduced. Their distribution on the different continents is, however, very local. They must have dry shelters on well-drained soil and a good supply of ground-dwelling insects and other invertebrates. Suburban Nairobi meets these habitat conditions, where hedgehogs are reported to be abundant.
A hedgehog uses a small home range with an approximate 120-yard radius from its nest. The nest is built in dry litter under tangles of hedge or bush, rock crevices, termite mounds or under buildings. The hedgehog chatters, snorts or softly growls if its range is invaded by another animal.
What does a Hedgehog eat?
The hedgehog wakes up at dusk and, as a solitary animal, begins its nocturnal activities alone. It uses regular pathways, toddling along on its short legs searching for food. A hedgehog will eat the equivalent of one-third of its body weight in one night. Its favorite foods are insects, earthworms, snails and slugs, making it a welcome guest in many suburban gardens. It is also known to eat eggs, small mammals, birds, frogs, reptiles, fruit, fungi and roots. Although not completely immune to toxins, hedgehogs have enough resistance to allow them to eat poisonous snakes.
How does the Hedgehog protect itself?
Even though spines provide the hedgehog with effective protection, the animal's most striking characteristic is its practice of curling up into a tight ball, with its spines sticking out in all directions. A highly developed circular muscle - running along the sides of the body and across the rump and neck - contracts to form a "bag" into which the body, head and legs are folded. It also sleeps in this position, so it is rarely caught unprotected.
When hedgehogs come into contact with unfamiliar objects with strong scents, they exhibit a very peculiar behavior: they lick the object, salivate profusely and anoint themselves with this frothy saliva. The purpose of this is widely speculated.
Do Hedgehogs hibernate?
Hedgehogs hibernate in cold climates. In deserts, they sleep through heat and drought in a similar process called aestivation. They remain active all year in more temperate locations.
Did You Know this about Hedgehogs?
Hedgehogs perform a courtship ritual in which the male walks round and round a female in estrus, often for hours at a time. After mating, they usually go their own ways.
Superstitions about this little animal abound in East Africa. Some people believe that seeds rubbing on a hedgehog before planting will produce abundant harvests. The skin and spines are also popular fertility charms.
Download free Hedgehog wallpapers, click on the image to open the large version.
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Hedgehog coloring pages
Download free Hedgehog coloring pages, click on the image to open the large version.