What do you get when a hedgehog mates with a snake?
Ok, I’m sorry for the silly joke. 🙂
But today we are going to learn some interesting information about one of the internet’s favorite animals –> The hedgehog!
Specifically, I am providing:
17 Fun Facts About Hedgehogs!
We are going to cover everything from what a hedgehog eats to how many spines are on their back.
Make sure to view Fact #17 to see what a baby hedgehog is called (along with an amazingly cute picture).
Fact #1: Hedgehogs are NOT baby porcupines.
This fact is evident to most people, but it’s still a common question that gets asked. But let me repeat it – hedgehogs and porcupines are SEPARATE SPECIES.
Porcupines can be huge, weighing up to 20 kilograms (44 lbs.) Hedgehogs, on the other hand, are much smaller, and generally don’t weigh more than 1.3 kg (3 lbs).
My guess is that the vast size difference is what prompts many people to think that hedgehogs are just baby porcupines?
Fact #2: I was surprised to learn what hedgehogs eat.
I would have guessed that hedgehogs were herbivores, and relied upon plants and nuts for food.
Well, my guess would have been wrong.
Hedgehogs are considered insectivores and rely upon a wide range of bugs such as worms, beetles, and slugs to eat. Most gardeners love having hedgehogs around because they feast upon many unwelcome pests in their garden, which means that fewer pesticides and insecticides have to be used.
But hedgehogs will readily eat any meat that becomes available, such as baby mice, frogs, small snakes, and eggs.
Of course, if you’re trying to attract hedgehogs, they are perfectly happy with dog food, cat food (wet or dry), or cooked egg.
Fact #3: It’s RARE to see a hedgehog during the day.
Yep, hedgehogs are strictly nocturnal and sleep during the day in their specially built nests.
Do you want to try and see a LIVE hedgehog? Then click PLAY on the LIVE stream below from Germany:
You are watching an animal feeding station in Germany that attracts not only hedgehogs but many different types of birds. Learn more about Thomas (the camera host) and watch our other featured LIVE animal cams HERE.
Please keep in mind two things while watching:
- As we just discussed, hedgehogs are nocturnal, so you only have a chance of seeing one at night.
- In Germany, Hedgehogs hibernate each year from November to March. During these months, you won’t see much activity at night, other than rats. 🙂
Fact #4: You also won’t see a hedgehog during winter.
Hedgehogs that live in northern climates hibernate in the winter when food becomes scarce (remember they eat insects!). Depending on the exact location, hibernation typically lasts from October/November to March/April.
Hedgehogs that live in warmer climates, such as Africa, don’t need to hibernate.
Fact #5: Hedgehogs have spines, not quills.
The spines on the back of a hedgehog are specialized hollow hairs that have been made stiff with keratin. Their spines are NOT considered quills, which are what a porcupine possesses.
Here’s the difference:
Quills are specialized spines that are barbed and can detach into predators.
Spines do not detach from its skin, though they can shed and be replaced when they age.
It should be noted that quills are a type of spine. So all quills are spines, but not all spines are quills.
Makes sense, right?
Fact #6: Hedgehogs can’t shoot their spines.
I guess this isn’t exactly a fact. But I thought it was important to answer a common question about hedgehogs.
Their spines are attached to their back and can’t be shot at predators. Please ignore any video game that tells you otherwise!
Fact #7: Guess how many spines are on a hedgehog back?
Did you say 1,000?
How about 3,000?
Well, both guesses would have been wrong.
Hedgehogs typically have between 5,000 to 7,000 individual spines on their back! The length of each of these spines is relatively short, just one to three centimeters (¾–1.5 inches).
Fact #8: Hedgehogs use their spines to protect themselves uniquely.
Hedgehogs are not aggressive. So what happens when a predator tries to eat them?
Interestingly, hedgehogs have a unique muscle down the length of their soft, exposed belly. When threatened, they contract the muscle, which pulls it into a nearly impenetrable ball with pointy spines on every exposed surface. Hedgehogs will then make hissing and clicking noises until the predator gives up.
Even lions have been known to be thwarted by hedgehogs.
Remember Sonic the Hedgehog? I guess there was some truth to this video game when he rolled up into a ball!
Fact #9: Hedgehogs live all over the world!
Naturally, they are found in parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa.
But nowadays you can even find hedgehogs in New Zealand. They were introduced here because people are so familiar with them and their benefits to gardens. But unfortunately, hedgehogs are now considered pests in New Zealand.
They are causing damage to native species, such as lizards, snails, and ground-nesting birds, specifically shorebirds. Like many invasive species, there are no natural predators in New Zealand to keep the hedgehog numbers contained.
Fact #10: There are SEVENTEEN species of hedgehogs!
They have unusual names, such as Four-toed, Amur, Southern White-breasted, and Desert Hedgehog, to name a few!
Fact #11: Hedgehogs have an incredible sense of smell.
Hedgehogs have lousy eyesight, but they make up for it with their incredible sense of smell.
Hedgehogs can smell food more than 3 cm (~1 inch) underground.
Hedgehogs sometimes do something odd when they encounter a new or unexpected smell. They will start making a foamy saliva goo and then spread the scented goo all over themselves. Is it a bug repellent? Is it an attractant for mates, perhaps? We still don’t know.
Fact #12: The name “HEDGEHOG” actually means something.
Hedgehogs obtained their name (circa 1450 B.C.E.) because they like to live around the base of hedgerows.
And they also make pig-like grunts, which is how “hog” got added to their name.
Put them together, and what do you get? HEDGEHOG!
Fact #13: Some hedgehog species eat vipers!
Seriously, I can’t make this up.
Hedgehogs may look cute and cuddly, but they can be skilled hunters.
Wow! Did you see that?
I will never be able to look at a cuddly hedgehog the same!
Fact #14: Hedgehogs can’t climb.
Hedgehogs are purely terrestrials, spending all of their time on the ground.
Fact #15: Is this animal a hedgehog?
The answer is no.
Even though it looks similar, this animal is called an echidna. They live in Australia and are unrelated to hedgehogs.
Echidnas are odd little creatures. They are considered mammals, but they have a beak, and lay eggs (making them monotremes). They are one of only two mammals that lay eggs (the other being a platypus).
To further mix things up, they have a pseudo-pouch for the eggs they lay, even though they are not marsupials.
Australia certainly has some weird animals.
Fact #16: Many people keep hedgehogs as pets.
The African Pygmy Hedgehog is typically the species that people choose to keep in their homes. They are good pets for night folks because they are active in the evening and sleep during the day.
I’m not sure if they make great pets, but watching videos like the one below sure makes them seem cute!
Fact #17: Baby hedgehogs are called “hoglets.”
The only reason I included this fact is that I wanted to feature a picture of a baby hedgehog. 🙂
Now it’s your turn!
What is a fun fact about hedgehogs that you know?
Please share in the comments below.
Thanks for reading.