European Hedgehog Facts You Won't Believe!


The European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) is a common species of the genus Erinaceus. Covered with quill-like spines on their backs, the hedgehog will often roll their body into a ball when threatened. As nocturnal animals, they can be seen out and about most often during the night. These animals can not see very well, but they have heightened auditory and olfactory senses.

Hedgehogs hibernate in the winter, but the European hedgehog hibernation is not quite the same as the hibernation of a simple mammal. After a very large meal of insects, they hibernate in the winter, starting from October all the way through to April. But they wake up frequently in the middle of their hibernation to remake or shift their nest. In mild winters, they will wait a month or two more than usual before they hibernate.

Hedgehogs may also exhibit strange behavior that researchers have dubbed 'anointing'. When they come across a small object or morsel of food with a unique smell, they will lick the substance until it is coated in frothy saliva. Then they rub this liquid onto their skin and spines so as to cover them in an odd smell. Why exactly they partake in self-anointing like this remains a topic of debate. There are several theories for this, some researchers believe they cover themselves in saliva to make them less palatable to predators.

Outside of its native and natural range, some countries consider the European hedgehog an invasive species as they threaten the ecosystem of local fauna, for example, they are considered an invasive species in the Scottish Western Isles and New Zealand. If you want to know more information about the European hedgehog background and European hedgehog life history, keep on reading!

If you like what you read, check out the badger and the gray fox.

European Hedgehog Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a European hedgehog?

The European hedgehog (genus Erinaceus) is one of 17 subspecies of hedgehogs, a type of small mammal descended from the order of Eulypotyphla - sharing its ancestry with moles, shrews, moonrats, and solenodons. They thus retain many shrew-like features, including a long snout and a tail.

What class of animal does a European hedgehog belong to?

The European hedgehog is a mammal. They have the unmistakable coat of fur as mammals do, and they also have specialized mammary glands to feed their newborn young.

How many European hedgehogs are there in the world?

Given its extensive geographic range, the European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) is very plentiful in numbers. It is one of the most common subspecies of hedgehogs. An estimate by Maurice Burton in 1969 put the number at 36.5 million. However, the data is too limited to clarify this and the actual hedgehog population is probably smaller than that.

Where does a European hedgehog live?

The natural west European hedgehog biome of choice are woodlands, pastures, and shrublands. They are common in the wilderness but also found in suburban areas with a lot of undergrowth.

What is a European hedgehog's habitat?

The preferred European hedgehog habitat is woodlands, as we mentioned, but they can actually adapt to a wide variety of environments. As the name implies, the European hedgehog is found all across Europe - from the Iberian peninsula all the way to Scandinavia. They also have a presence in the UK, north-western Russia, and the Mediterranean islands of Sicily, Elba, and Sardinia. It should be noted that the western European hedgehog is more or less morphologically identical to the Russian and Mediterranean variants. In the late 1800s, English colonists also carried hedgehogs to New Zealand - outside of its native range - as a means of pest control. Both present-day northern and southern islands of New Zealand now feature the western European hedgehog.

Who do European hedgehogs live with?

The common hedgehog is a solitary creature. The only social interaction they have with other European hedgehogs is when they reproduce. After mating, the males actually desert the mother hedgehogs completely, and the mother alone provides the hoglet parental care for about five weeks after they are born.

How long does a European hedgehog live?

On average, the European hedgehog's life expectancy is two or three years. But their lifespan can actually go up to 10 years.

How do they reproduce?

As mammals, European hedgehogs have polygynandrous placental reproduction. The hedgehog mating season for males and females is commonly April-May. After a gestation period of 35 days or thereabouts, the mother gives birth to a litter of up to five babies. They can give birth again in September or October, but those born in winter are less likely to survive.

What is their conservation status?

European hedgehogs are listed as of Least Concern by the IUCN Red List, and they are quite a common subspecies. That being said, there has been a steady decline in the European hedgehog population of the British Isles. Since 2002, it is estimated that the total British hedgehog population has been cut in half, mostly due to habitat loss. The biggest of European hedgehog enemies is likely chemical usage in gardens, which kills the creatures the hedgehog preys upon and may even poison the hedgehogs.

European Hedgehog Fun Facts

What do European hedgehogs look like?

The European hedgehog family is Erinaceidae, which moonrats also belong to.

European hedgehogs have a cone-shaped face with prominent black ears and a pointy, black snout. Their head and underbelly are adorned with a coat of coarse brown fur. The easy way to tell a European hedgehog vs. African hedgehog (a.k.a four-toed hedgehog) is that the latter has white fur on its flank and face. However, they are nearly identical to the Northern white-breasted hedgehog (Erinaceus roumanicus). The most iconic feature of a hedgehog, however, is its keratin-strengthened spines on its back. They do not detach like a porcupine's quills do. The spines can also be a creamy color - although very rarely - in blonde and albino European hedgehog variants, found mostly in North Ronaldsay and sometimes in western Europe.

How cute are they?

European hedgehogs are about the cutest things out there. They have a bouncy, swift, and adorable motion. A domesticated hedgehog is also quite the lazy sleepyhead, as they flip over belly-up and curl up slightly.

How do they communicate?

Like all other subspecies of hedgehogs, European hedgehogs can make a wide range of noises. The most iconic, of course, is its hog-like snuffing and puffing while foraging - where it gets its name. They also make hog-like noises when they eat. But other than this, they also hiss periodically when they are in a state of agitation or fright. They squeal when they are happy or when a male finds a female to mate. On the other hand, the female chuffs exactly like a steam train before they mate. Baby hedgehogs can quack like a duck or chirp like a bird when they need food or are in some form of distress.

How big is a European hedgehog?

The European hedgehog is said to be the largest subspecies of hedgehogs. The baby European hedgehog size starts out from an average of 0.5 ft (16 cm) from head to tail. An adult European hedgehog, however, can grow up to 10 in (26 cm) or even larger. The African pygmy hedgehog is generally half their size!

How fast can a European hedgehog run?

Hedgehogs seem to be zooming past at a very swift pace, but in the grander scheme of themes, they are not fast. The European hedgehog top speed can go up to 4 mph (6.4 kph).

How much does a European hedgehog weigh?

European hedgehogs are on the heavier side compared to the other common subspecies. Their weight can increase from an average of 4 oz (120 g) in childhood to as much as 4.4 lb (2 kg) in adulthood.

What are their male and female names of the species?

Female hedgehogs are called sows, whereas male hedgehogs are known as boars.

What would you call a baby European hedgehog?

A baby hedgehog is called a hoglet. Hoglets are born in an average litter of between four and six, although only about three survive on average.

What do they eat?

The feeding behavior of a European hedgehog is omnivorous, i.e., their expansive diet covers a huge variety of things. But mainly, like all other subspecies of hedgehogs, the European hedgehog diet consists of creepy-crawly invertebrates like pill millipedes, black millipedes, worms, grubs, slugs, earwigs, caterpillars, and ground beetles. If you have a pet hedgehog at home that does not hunt in your garden, you want to keep them well-fed with a protein-rich diet.

Are they dangerous?

European hedgehogs tend to be very timid creatures. They pose no threat or danger to humans, rather, it is usually the other way around. On the very odd chance that an adult hedgehog does bite you, it can penetrate the skin and draw blood. When they feel threatened, they roll up into a ball, as previously mentioned. They can also carry fleas, mites, and ringworms.

Would they make a good pet?

The European hedgehog is a common animal but is still considered wildlife and illegal as pets in some countries and US states. As nocturnal animals, they are a great choice of pet if you are busy at your nine to five workplace during the day. They also prefer to be housed alone. That being said, a pet European hedgehog requires a lot of special care and attention, so make sure to do your research before you adopt one.

Kidadl Advisory: All pets should only be bought from a reputable source. It is recommended that as a potential pet owner you carry out your own research prior to deciding on your pet of choice. Being a pet owner is very rewarding but it also involves commitment, time and money. Ensure that your pet choice complies with the legislation in your state and/or country. You must never take animals from the wild or disturb their habitat. Please check that the pet you are considering buying is not an endangered species, or listed on the CITES list, and has not been taken from the wild for the pet trade.

Did you know...

The European hedgehog - especially hoglets - are most comfortable in a temperature of 22-30 degrees C. If you have a European hedgehog pet, they will be fine at normal room temperature. But the hoglets should be put at a temperature of about 30 degrees C, which is best achieved by a ceramic heat lamp in winter.

How did the European hedgehog get its name?

Hedgehogs have a unique - and rather peculiar - foraging habit. While they sniff through the hedges for the invertebrate lunch, they emit pig-like grunts. So the easy indication of a hedgehog out and about in the night is a hog's noise from inside a hedge - hence comes the European hedgehog etymology.

How many spines does a European hedgehog have?

The European hedgehog can have 5000-7000 spines on its back. They also shed the spines about once a year, upon which the replacements grow quite quickly.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals including the European otter and the African pygmy hedgehog.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one of our European hedgehog coloring pages.

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