Hedgehogs Are The Cutest Mammal In The Animal Kingdom
You just have to look at a hedgehog to get an idea of how cute these little guys can be. Yet, even though they are a populous mammal found throughout Europe and Africa, most people don’t know very many hedgehog facts. This article aims to remedy that situation by revealing all the things you didn’t know about hedgehogs. After all, who wouldn’t want to know more about these adorable animals?
Despite appearing in hundreds of stories and being the inspiration behind one of gaming’s biggest mascots in the form of Sonic the Hedgehog, you are likely to still have plenty of questions. These could include just how they got their name or do hedgehogs make good pets? The good news is that the answers to those and many more questions can be found below, along with some incredibly interesting facts about hedgehogs that will give you a deeper appreciation for one of natures cutest species.
Hedgehogs Have Around 5,000 SpinesPhoto: Michael Gäbler / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 3.0
The most distinctive physical feature of the hedgehog is obviously its spines. Adults will usually have around 5,000 individual quills that can stick out in all directions when they curl up into a ball. Once the animal matures it will lose all of its spines so that new ones can grow through. This is a process that is repeated annually, ensuring that the hedgehog always has healthy quills.
The Spines Are Made From The Same Material As Human HairPhoto: Peyman Zehtab Fard / Flickr / CC-BY 2.0
The quills of a hedgehog are essentially just hair. They are even made from keratin, the material that makes up both hair and nails in other animals including humans. Each spine is a hollow structure that can reach several centimeters in length. The main difference between the spines and normal hairs that other mammals have is that they are stiffened so that they can provide protection against potential predators.
Hedgehogs Are A Popular Pet In Some Parts Of The WorldPhoto: pixabay.com / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
The fact that they are so small and adorable has made hedgehogs a popular pet among certain populations. Primarily it is the African pygmy hedgehog that is kept as a pet by most people as they are the easiest to breed and be domesticated. There are some problems with having the animals in a home environment though. They should only be kept alone as they generally do not socialize with other hedgehogs in their natural environment. They also need a fairly large cage because of the fact they cover so much ground when they are awake and exploring their surroundings.
Baby Hedgehogs Are Called HogletsPhoto: theyounz / Flickr / CC-BY-ND 2.0
As if to make them even more cute, baby hedgehogs are officially known as hoglets. They are born in litters that can be as big as 11, though, mothers will typically only give birth to four or five at a time. The gestation period for a hedgehog can range between one and two months and they are born with a protective fluid-filled sac around their quills so that they do not harm the mother during birthing.
They Can Live For A Long TimePhoto: milo bostock / Flickr / CC-BY 2.0
Despite their small size, which normally limits the lifespan of mammals, hedgehogs are capable of living for a long time. The average lifespan for a hedgehog in the wild is between four to eight years. However, some researchers have recorded specimens that were allegedly up to 16 years old. Those living in captivity can live even longer. Hedgehogs in zoos have been known to live for approximately 10 years.
Their Diet Is Quite VariedPhoto: monicore / Pexels / Pexels License
The mainstay of the hedgehog’s diet are insects. Yet, because they live in a wide variety of different environments they are capable of eating a range of different types of foods. As omnivores, they will eat other living creatures in addition to insects. These can include frogs, snails, eggs, and even small snakes. Berries, mushrooms, and watermelons are also popular with hedgehogs.