Hedgehogs are mammals that have been around for millions of years and are among the cutest of all the forest animals. Sadly, many get squashed while crossing the busy roads. Although you might think you know everything there is to know about these adorable mammals, you will be surprised by at least some of these fun facts.
1.) They got their name after their peculiar foraging habits. They root through hedges and other undergrowth in search of their favourite foods. As they move through the hedges they emits pig-like grunts — thus, the name hedgehog.
2.) They are nocturnal creatures so they come out at night and sleep during the day.
3.) Their coats are thick and spiny, providing them with a formidable defence against predators such as the fox. When they feel alarmed or intimidated, they will curl up into a spiny ball to protect its vulnerable soft stomach.
4.) They have about 5000 spines. Each spine lasts about a year then drops out and a replacement grows.
5.) The spines are hollow and springy with a flexible neck and they are erected by muscles. At the base there is a smooth ball which bends on impact.
6.) There may be up to 500 fleas on one hedgehog but the specific hedgehog flea (known as Archaepsylla erinacei) rarely bites humans.
7.) When stimulated by a strong smell or taste, they have a habit to self-anoint – covering their prickles in foamy saliva.
8.) While hunting for food, they rely primarily upon their senses of hearing and smell because their eyesight is weak though their eyes are adapted for night-time vision.
9.) They have a particularly long, extending snout beyond the front of their mouth which they use to help them forage for food.
10.) Their favourite food is small creatures such as insects, worms, centipedes, snails, mice, frogs, and snakes.
11.) Their diet has claimed it the reputation as being the ‘gardener’s friend’ as it includes so many ‘pests’.
12.) Hedgehogs are solitary, usually pairing up only to mate. When they mate they often make loud snuffling noises. The male circles the female, sometimes for hours, to persuade her to mate. They will separate thereafter and the male takes no part in rearing the family.
13.) The young are born in litters ranging from one to eleven. They remain with their mothers for only four to seven weeks before heading out on their own.
15.) Hedgehog mothers have been known to eat their young if the nest is disturbed, though they sometimes simply move them to a new nest.
16.) Baby hedgehogs are born blind after 32 days and their spines are soft. After about four weeks, the mother will take the young out on their first foraging trip and after ten days, the family will separate.
17.) Hedgehogs in cold climes hibernate over the winter. In warmer climates such as deserts they sleep through heat and drought in a similar process called aestivation. In more temperate areas they remain active all year.
18.) There are 15 species of hedgehog.
H/T to onekind