We know that they protect themselves with a shield of spikes, but their friendly face sends a different message. We also know that they like to live in our backyards, but have trouble finding them. That’s all we really know about hedgehogs, but the reality is that there’s a whole world of other things that hedgehogs can offer!
This article will help shine a light on curious facts that you may not know about these friendly neighbours living right outside our houses.
Perhaps the element that contributes the most towards the image of hedgehogs is their strong back of spines. On the other hand, these spikes are not spikes at all; in fact, they are incredibly hardened hair from the massive amounts of keratin in them that serve as self-defence in case anyone gets too close. However, if you do get punctured by one of these, you will not have to worry about secondary effects (besides a quite painful pinch) because these spines are not poisonous.
On average, there are between 5000 and 7000 spines on a single hedgehog’s back, each of which lasts around one year before it falls off and gets replaced with a new one.
Although during the day they can be active, hedgehogs are at their prime active hours during the night. During the day, they tend to hide out from predators or take long naps in ditches, under foliage and rocks. When they are most active, they usually spend most of their time looking for food for themselves as well as for their young ones in the case of female hedgehogs.
Depending on where they find themselves, most hedgehogs hibernate during the winter. Spines do a job of protecting the hedgehogs from a large number of predators that exist all around them. Many hedgehogs tend to roll into a ball of spikes that hold any intruder like owls, foxes and mongooses away.
Another protection strategy that hedgehogs have is a natural immunity to the venom of snakes; a trait that is also popular among opossums, badgers and moles.
Hedgehogs are quite small themselves so it would make sense to think that their diet is based on eating insects. However, hedgehogs eat beyond that and enjoy savouring berries, other fruits such as melon and watermelon, and vegetables like tomatoes and pepper.
On the other hand, hedgehogs don’t use up a lot of energy but are nevertheless quite greedy when it comes to eating. Therefore, if you’re thinking of getting a hedgehog as a pet, you’ll need to keep your hedgehog on a regulated and strict diet so that they don’t fall into obesity.
According to research, in the short period of one night, hedgehogs can eat up to one-third of their body weight. Be careful about feeding them dairy since hedgehogs are lactose intolerant and may fall sick.
Generally, female hedgehogs will carry between three or four babies per litter, or even up to six if the hedgehog is smaller in size. For the few first hours after they are born, baby hedgehogs are bling with a thin film made out of membrane covering their eyes. After a couple of hours, the quills dry and fall off.
If you want to use the correct terminology for baby hedgehogs, you can refer to them as “hoglets”. Besides a large number of predators that are present in the same environment as hedgehogs, mothers and fathers of hoglets can sometimes become predators themselves as well.
Typically, mothers will protect their babies, but when the nest is disturbed by humans or other predators, mothers will also sometimes sadly eat their young ones.
When living in the wild, large hedgehogs can survive for around 6 years and smaller species have an average lifespan of 3 years. On the other hand, when kept as pets, hedgehogs (particularly the smaller kind) have been recorded to survive between 4 and 7 years.
Of course, this is only possible if they are treated with the best of care and attention.
Since hedgehogs are not an incredibly researched subject, it is not widely known how many species of hedgehogs there actually exists. On the other hand, to the surprise of many, there are in fact seventeen different kinds of hedgehogs that are all unique and different from one another.
For example, there is the Long-haired hedgehog, the Four-toed hedgehog, the Desert hedgehog, the Bare-bellied hedgehog and many more.
Part of the reason why hedgehogs are active during the night is that they have quite a bad eyesight; meaning that the less light there is in the environment, the easier it is for them to get around.
To complement their poor vision, hedgehogs are blessed with quite an outstanding sense of smell and hearing. Their nose and ears are what allows them to find food, as well as sense danger; something that is crucial for survival. Usually, their noses are warm and wet, pointing up, so it gathers as much information from the environment they find themselves in.
Hedgehogs are fortunately animals considered to be on the low end of endangerment. However, it is sad to know that hedgehogs often get killed unintentionally by human activity such as getting caught in lawnmowers, or in the middle of bonfires. Hence, next time you’re doing an outdoor activity, think of the possible consequences that can happen!
If you want to keep a hedgehog as a pet, make sure that you follow all the steps that professionals explain and put forward, but also be sure to do your own research and ask yourself if you can really commit to taking care of these amazing animals.