Hedgehogs

Facts about Hedgehogs

Read all about the spiky but friendly hedgehog, and then why not take our quiz to test your new knowledge at the end?

What a cute animal the hedgehog is. We’ve found some really awesome facts that will amaze and astound you. Let’s get started!

How did the hedgehog get its name?

  • The hedgehog got its name because of its weird scavenging habits. They snuffle through hedges and other undergrowth in search of their favorite food which are small creatures. As it goes on its quest for food it makes pig-like grunts. Cute. But therefore the name hedgehog. Interesting huh?

hedgehog image

  • Even though this hasn’t got to do with how the hedgehog got its name, the sea urchin was named after the hedgehog. Before the more adorable name came into use, the spiky mammals were called “urchins” and thus inspired the name of the similarly spiky sea creatures. It’s definitely because of its looks as we can’t imagine sea urchins make grunting sounds, can you?

Where do hedgehogs live?

  • The hedgehog is nocturnal, which means it comes out at night. Most of its day is spent snoozing in a nest or under bushes or thick scrubs.

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  • They live all over the world, from Britain and the rest of Europe, except the far north, and to Russia. They don’t live on the Scottish Islands and were introduced to New Zealand and Australia by man. There is not a single species of hedgehog that is native to Australia or America. They also live across a big area of East Africa, but you can find them more easily in Suburban Nairobi, West Africa, Central Africa, Kenya, Zambia, and Tanzania.

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  • Where do they like to call home? They like moist places, which are either over-ground or underground. They find some holes or abandoned tunnels in deep forests under branches, leaves, roots, of plants, and stems where they could spend their time. You can find them in woodland areas, farmlands, gardens, or even in parks. They live where there are lots of insects on the ground and other food so they can snap them up and chew away.

group of hedgehogs

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  • They have a home range of about 120 yards (about 110 meters). But saying that, you might be surprised at this. If they’re looking for food, they can travel up to 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) a night in search of their delicious meal!

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  • Poor hedgehogs really can’t see very well, so when they’re on the hunt they rely on their hearing and smell to lead them to where they need to go.

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  • Sure you’ve seen their long snout. Well this is used to help them find the food they want.

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  • These cute little creatures are loved by gardeners as they get all those pesky pests that ruin all the hard work of planting. As people love them so much, they will often put out some dog or cat food in city gardens, which will keep them coming back and keeping a garden all nice and pretty.

hedgehog in garden

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  • Do hedgehogs hibernate? Well yes and no. Some do and some don’t. European hedgehogs hibernate throughout the winter, but those who live in sunnier climes such as deserts, sleep through the heat and drought in a similar way. It’s called aestivation. Wow that’s a big word. In climates that are pretty much the same all year, they are active little creatures all the way through.

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  • For the hedgehogs that do hibernate, they eat a lot in the autumn to get those tummies full and then in October they build their nest of leaves and grass, and off they go for a long sleep.

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  • To keep themselves warm, they roll themselves up into a little ball and use their nest to keep warm.

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  • Even when hibernating, these cute little creatures come out on sunny days to drink and eat water.

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  • Did you know that the hedgehogs in Great Britain that do hibernate, they are one of only three animals which do hibernate? Fascinating.

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  • When they hibernate, their heartbeats drop from 190 beats per minute to 20 beats per minute and their body temperature drops. Sadly, because of this, lots of them can die during the winter months. But that’s not the only reason; they can die from fire, floods or someone wrecking their nests. Be careful where you walk and look out for nests.

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  • They often hibernate in compost heaps of piles of garden litter, so before you go digging or lighting a bonfire, keep a sharp look out for a little hedgehog nest.

What do Hedgehogs Eat?

  • Firstly they are carnivores, surprisingly. Looking at it you would think it would be an herbivore, but no they’re meat eaters.

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  • They eat insects, worms, centipedes, snails, mice, frogs, and even snakes. Who would have thought that they would eat snakes, wow?

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  • Now this is something totally unexpected! They can take down a viper in a fight and eat it too. Wow, these creatures should definitely be in our gardens. They are largely immune to most snake venom. That would be cool for us.

hedgehog food

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Other Interesting Facts About Hedgehogs

  • Their coats are thick and spiny, which protects them against predators such as the fox. They’re often compared to pincushions. When they feel alarmed or intimidated, they curl up into a spiny ball to protect their stomachs, faces, legs and bellies, which have no spines on them.

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  • Now this is quite something. Each hedgehog has about 5,000 to 7,000 spines on their bodies. Wow. And each spine only lasts a year; after a year it drops off and a new spine grows.

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  • The spines look strong and sturdy, but surprisingly they’re actually hollow and springy with a flexible neck. They come out with movements of the muscles. Right at the bottom of the spine there’s a smooth ball which bends on impact. Wow, did not know that.

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  • It seems that fleas quite like hedgehogs as there can be up to 500 fleas on one hedgehog. But don’t worry, these are ‘hedgehog fleas’ and they hardly ever bite humans.

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  • This is pretty cool! When they come across a strong smell they do something that is called ‘self-anointing’. They are immune to poisons in some plants, and they will sometimes eat these and then make frothy saliva in their mouths. The hedgehogs then lick their spines, spreading the spit with the plant’s poison all over the spikes. Very interesting indeed. No one has any idea why they do this.

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  • The name for a baby hedgehog is a ‘hoglet’. That’s a seriously cute name.

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  • The male is called a ‘boar’ and the female a ‘sow’.

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  • A group of hedgehogs is called an ‘array’. Have you ever heard of that? But they are actually animals that quite like their own company, so you’ll rarely see them in a group. They only pair up to mate. If you hear loud snuffling noises in your garden, the male hedgehog might be trying to win his lady over. He will often circle her for hours to make her see he’s worthy of her. Once they’ve mated, the male disappears and has no part if bringing up the hoglet. It takes about 32 days for the hoglets to be born.

hedgehog spines

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  • The young are born in litters ranging from either one to eleven hoglets. Unbelievably they only stay with their moms for four to seven weeks and then they head out into the big wide world by themselves. Moms need to protect their young from other male hedgehogs, as strangely enough they might eat them. Sometimes, if their nest has been disturbed a mother hedgehog might also eat her young, but mostly they will move them to another nest. Phew.

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  • When they’re born their spines are very soft, but they soon harden up after about 30 days so they can protect themselves.

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  • The head and body of adult hedgehogs range from 5 to 12 inches (13 to 30 centimeters) long and their tail can be about 1 to 2 inches (3 to 5 centimeters).

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  • They are heavier than a U.S. penny and weigh 14 to 39 ounces (395 grams to just over 1 kilogram).

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  • Hedgehogs live to about 7 years old and in captivity they can live for up to 15 years.

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  • Wow, who would’ve thought, they can walk faster than a child at 6 miles per hour (almost 10 kilometers per hour). For their size, they are certainly quite fast.

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  • They are longer than a teaspoon at 5 to 14 inches (about 13 to 38 centimeters).

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  • Now this is quite something. Hedgehogs are illegal in Maine, Arizona, California, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Hawaii and New York City. This is because people like to keep them as pets but in these states they are still seen as wild animals.

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  • This is crazy! In New Zealand McGillicuddy’s Serious Party once tried to get a hedgehog elected to parliament. No ways. They were unsuccessful, which is hardly surprising.

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  • Now this could get you laughing! There used to be an International Hedgehog Olympic Games which included sprints, hurdles and floor exercises. Seriously.

hedgehog picture

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  • The most common hedgehog that is a pet is the African pygmy hedgehog.

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  • The first hedgehog to become domesticated, like a cat or dog, was in 4 B.C.

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  • They’re quite famous in books. Shakespeare mentions hedgehogs in The Tempest and Midsummer Night’s Dream, and he refers to “hedgepigs” and “urchins.”

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  • Hedgehogs are lactose intolerant…wow wonder how they found that out.

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  • In 2006, McDonald’s in the U.K. changed the McFlurry to a hedgehog-friendly design. They must have quite liked this cute creature.

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  • We know that hedgehogs grunt, snort and snuffle, but when they feel threatened they actually hiss. If they’re young they’ll make a quack or whistle sound. Best be careful to not upset them.

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  • In the UK, we know a hedgehog predator is the fox, but so are badgers, cars, lawnmowers, cattle grids, pesticides used on plants and any chemicals.

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  • They have certainly had their fair share of some weird and wonderful folk tales. One was that hedgehogs picked up fruit on their spines and the other was that they sucked milk from cows. These are not true…can you imagine?

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  • Did you know that hedgehogs can climb trees, stone walls and fences and even swim across water? Wow.

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These gorgeous little creatures are super cool and super interesting. Have you ever seen a hedgehog in your garden or do you know any other cool facts to share with us?

Hedgehog Video

Useful Websites

Want to find out more about the marvelous hedgehog? Read more on onekind.org.

 

Quiz Time!

Hedgehog Quiz

Do you feel you know everything there is to know about hedgehogs? Then let’s test your knowledge!

Start the quiz below and see how you do!