Hedgehogs are popular for being “cute” with their cute faces and small bodies, despite their appearance that is covered with spines all over and scary to touch carelessly.
Their legs are short, and their curled-up figure is adorable, and they have become more common as pets. However, they are not as common as dogs or cats, and you do not often see them in the wild.
Let’s take a look at the ecology of hedgehogs not only as pets, but also as wild animals.



~ Basic information. ~

Mammalia Eulipotyphla Erinaceidae Erinaceinae.

Length: 14-22cm. Weight: 300-500g. (※Common hedgehog stuff in Japan)

The biggest feature of hedgehogs is, of course, the spines that cover their bodies. They do not have spines on their abdomen, but only on their back.

The spines are actually body hair that has hardened and clumped together. They not only protect themselves from predators, but also act as cushions to absorb shocks, and they have no major problems even if they fall from trees.

Hedgehogs are nocturnal and tend to prefer dark places over bright ones. They also act alone without forming groups, and are quite active, climbing walls and trees or swimming.

Like moles, their eyes are degenerated and they have almost no eyesight. Instead, they have excellent sense of smell and hearing.

Some species hibernate in winter, but the four-toed hedgehog that is kept as a pet in Japan is a non-hibernating species.


Hedgehogs are often kept as pets in Japan.

If you want to keep rare animals as pets, you need to follow the laws established by each country. This time, I will introduce whether it is possible to keep hedgehogs at home in Japan.

Wild hedgehogs were thought to be extinct in Japan, but individuals that are believed to have been kept as pets have established themselves in some areas.

They are still sold in Japanese pet shops, and most of them are four-toed hedgehogs. However, hedgehogs are naturally timid and have a strong sense of caution. It can be difficult to live with them as pets, and it may be difficult at first.

However, if you take the time, they will remember your voice and smell, and they will even ride on your hand. It’s nice to build trust with them, but real hedgehogs are solitary creatures that do not form groups.

Extreme skinship can cause stress, so be careful.


Beware of feeding hedgehogs.

When keeping a hedgehog as a pet, hedgehog-specific food is available for feeding. It is also okay to give them other foods such as crickets, pink mice, fruits, and chicken as treats.

However, wild hedgehogs move around a lot and can walk 3-5 km in one night. It is difficult to make pet hedgehogs exercise this much, so overfeeding them may cause them to become overweight.

In addition to feeding them with love, it is important to manage them responsibly.

Other precautions in keeping hedgehogs.

Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals and can be noisy when their owners are asleep. Especially the running wheel that hedgehogs like can be quite annoying for some people and may even cause insomnia. If you have trouble sleeping, it is recommended to switch to a silent type of running wheel.

Also, since hedgehogs are animals that excrete a lot, they need to be cleaned frequently. They do not have much body odor, but if you do not clean their toilet, it can become a source of odor.



Hedgehog’s Q&A.

What is the origin of the hedgehog name?

In English, it is called “Hedgehog”, but in fact, in Japanese it is called “harinezumi”. Why is it called harinezumi in Japanese this time? We will introduce its origin.

Although it is called “nezumi (RAT)” in Japan, it actually has an ecology similar to that of a mole. It has a strong impact that has firmness all over the body, and it seems that it was named a rat with firmness.

Overseas, the name comes from the behavior seen near the fence as shown below. It is called “hedgehog” because it snorts like a pig (hog) around the hedge.

In addition, the Four-toed Hedgehog, which is kept in the Japan, is named because it has four toes on its hind legs. There are five types other than Four-toed Hedgehog, so the appearance characteristics are the origin of the name.


What do hedgehogs eat?

Hedgehogs mainly eat earthworms, insects, small mammals, fruits with high water content, and seeds. They are omnivorous and eat anything that is available in their habitat.

However, since most of the research has been conducted on the four-toed hedgehog, there is little information available on the dietary habits of other species.


Why do hedgehogs live there?

Hedgehogs are found in Europe and other places, including urban areas. They live in hedges, barns, and other places and often search for prey within human habitats.

They can also be seen in Japan, but hedgehogs are not originally native to Japan. It is believed that pets and others escaped and bred, leading to the confirmation of wild hedgehogs as an invasive species.


The hedgehog suddenly spits foam and starts licking the needle, is that okay?

The behavior of hedgehogs foaming at the mouth and rubbing their spines is called anting, and the reason for this behavior is not yet known.

Some theories suggest that it is done to hide their own scent or to boost their immune system.

Although it may surprise you when keeping them as pets, this behavior is harmless, so please rest assured.


Do hedgehog needles hurt?

When you look at pictures of hedgehogs, their spines may seem hard and painful. While they are an important mechanism for protecting the hedgehog’s body, they are not usually so hard.

When relaxed, they have a soft texture and can be touched by hand.

However, when the hedgehog is tense and raises its spines, they become hard and painful. It is best to avoid touching them in this state.


What is the difference between a hedgehog and a porcupine?

Hedgehogs are not the only animals that have spines all over their body. Porcupines also have spines, but they are very different from hedgehogs.

First of all, porcupines are much larger than hedgehogs, with some species growing to almost 1 meter in length, while hedgehogs are usually only a few tens of centimeters long.

Although they both have spines, their purposes are opposite. Hedgehogs raise their spines to protect themselves, while porcupines raise their spines to intimidate and attack their opponents.

There are also differences in the nature of their spines. Hedgehog spines do not usually fall out, while porcupine quills are designed to detach from the body after piercing an opponent.

Animals that attack porcupines and receive counterattacks will be left with painful quills stuck in their bodies.

What is the difference between a hedgehog and an echidnas?

Hedgehogs are closer to moles than rats, but there is also a species called the “harimogura” (Japanese for “needle mole”).

The harimogura is a monotreme that belongs to the Tachyglossidae family and is considered a relative of the platypus.

Although not as large as porcupines, harimoguras are larger than hedgehogs.

Unlike hedgehogs, they are diurnal and lay eggs. It is very rare for a mammal to be born from an egg.

Do hedgehogs have natural enemies?

Hedgehogs are adept at protecting themselves, but surprisingly, they have many natural enemies. They are mainly targeted by carnivorous animals such as wildcats, coyotes, martens, and foxes, as well as birds of prey such as hawks, eagles, and owls.

Since their heads are not covered with spines, predators seem to aim for this weak point. It is interesting to see the harshness of nature and the mechanisms that have evolved to cope with it.

What is the relationship between hedgehogs and humans?

While hedgehogs are mainly kept as pets in Japan, the situation is quite different worldwide.

Hedgehogs have been widely used as food in many cultures around the world. In fact, they were even used in recipes during the late Middle Ages in Europe.

They are still used as food by the Roma people today and have various other uses such as folk remedies and magic.

On the other hand, they are considered to bring good luck and have been loved in some parts of Europe for a long time.

As Japanese people, we may not want to think about eating these adorable creatures.




Type of Hedgehog.

Four-toed hedgehog.
North African hedgehog.
Southern African hedgehog.
Somali hedgehog.

Amur hedgehog.
Southern white-breasted hedgehog.
West European hedgehog.
Northern white-breasted hedgehog.

Long-eared hedgehog.
Indian long-eared hedgehog.

Daurian hedgehog.
Hugh’s hedgehog.

Desert hedgehog.
Brandt’s hedgehog.
Indian hedgehog.
Bare-bellied hedgehog.







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