What is a hedgehog?


What exactly is a hedgehog?

The question may seem simple, but it’s been debated for a rather long while. Here in North America, where there is no native hedgehog population, they commonly get mistaken for porcupines and vice versa; in Europe they’re seen as a cultural icon. Regardless of where they are there is one thing for certain. They’re cute. Impossibly so. They’re also incredibly adaptable.

It is now believed that hedgehogs have been around for over 75 million years, and possibly as long as 100 million. To put it into perspective the hedgehog lived alongside the dinosaurs, sabretoothed cats, woolly mammoths, and dodo birds. They were worn on amulets in ancient Egypt to encourage fertility, and viewed as a delicacy in ancient Sumerian culture. One of the first recorded recipes, in fact, was a way to eat a hedgehog.

So, what is a hedgehog?

Scientifically speaking: they’re in the Class Mammalia, Order Insectivora, and theFamily Erinaceidae. They have no living relatives now, although some believe they might be related to the shrew and vole.

What does this mean for the layperson?  It means that the hedgehog is not in fact a rodent, but rather an insectivore – the most ancient of mammals. They are true omnivores, subsisting primarily on insects, slugs, spiders, snails, worms and some small greens. Perfect for the English countryside, where the European Hedgehog has lived for hundreds of years.

The most commonly seen species of hedgehog outside of Europe is the African pygmy hedgehog, or simply the African hedgehog.  A hybrid of Atelerix albiventris and Atelerix algirus the African hedgehog is notably smaller than its European cousin. They come in a variety of colors and markings since they first began to be tamed, and are easily identified by their four toed back feet and their white furred bellies.

African hedgehogs are native to Senegal in western Africa across to southern Somalia and Tanazania in the East. They’re one of a believed fifteen various hedgehog species scattered through Africa and Eurasia, though some believe there to be even more species. However many species there may be, they’re certainly becoming a popular pet both in the U.S. and the UK.


5 thoughts on “What is a hedgehog?

  1. Daniella Reina

    Hi, you answered my question on yahoo answers and I was wondering if you could give me a little bit more advice on them? I just separated them and they have their own cage now, if they mated would it be a problem? I mean once the had turn 6 months old. And is there anyway I can keep their house warmer since my house tends to drop at least til 65 deegres. I hope you get back to me, thanks for your time.

    • Of course! I’m always happy to give more information. Had you heard the male ‘sing’ at all? The singing sounds like high pitch squeaks and is normally accompanied by him nosing the sides of the female and her face.

      If they mated there is a chance that the male wouldn’t be fully fertile yet, but there is the risk of pregnancy. The female would become hungrier and more lethargic and after 35-40 days give birth to a litter. I’d be happy to give you more advice on that if that /is/ the case. 6 months is young for a pregnancy, it’s generally better to wait to breed until the female is about 8 months old. But. There is the chance it’s all fine. 🙂

      Do you cover their cages to keep them warmer? Do they have hides? Igloos or like ‘hides’ help keep them warm. You can also consider using a reptile heater. I’m a fan of the Reptitherm RH7 because it keeps them very warm, but isn’t hot enough to burn or melt plastic. Most pet stores carry it or something similar. just make sure they’re not so hot as to burn the hedgehogs or cause a fire risk!

      • Daniella Reina

        Yes, I do cover their cages with a blanket to . Them warm. Yesterday we had an accident though, while I was off at school my female crawled out of her cage (I have no idea how she did it) and walked out of the room. My baby boxer got a hold of her and pulled some quills out, both of them are usually very active at night but last night they didn’t want to come out of their house and haven’t been eating. What can I do? She did bleed, please help me put I don’t know what to do.

  2. Have you checked her for damage beyond lost quills? Checked her temperature? How much blood/was it on her body or her face?

    Honestly, I’d want to contact a vet to check up and ensure there’s no damage internally. A boxer has a very powerful bite. The Hedgehog Welfare Society has a list of vets by state that threat hedgies.

    Definitely keep me updated! I don’t want anything bad happening to your poor hedgies.

  3. Daniella Reina

    Yes, I checked her and that was the only thing she had. I’m not sure if he bite her, or if he stepped on her. Since he had no injuries in his mouth, what could I feed her? And it wasn’t much blood. If you were to email me at jathna.reina@gmail.com I could send you a picture of the injury. Im pretty sure she’s traumatized, she didn’t move all night and just stayed in one corner of the cage under her house all night. When I wake up in the morning I would usually find her running around.

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