15 Interesting Facts about Hedgehogs
Updated: Jan 24
1. Usually, hedgehogs are nocturnal. If you see one by daylight, chances are high that they are sick.
Here is what to do when you find a sick hedgehog:
2. To communicate, hedgehogs grunt, snuffle and squeal.
To hear what a hedgehog sounds like, click here.
3. A hedgehog’s diet consists mostly of insects, but they also eat plants, frogs and even snakes. All grown-up hedgehogs are lactose intolerant.
For this reason, please do not feed milk to hedgehogs. It is also advised not to feed them bread because of its low nutritional value. In general, feeding wild animals is not recommended, so that they do not become dependent on humans. But if you must feed a hedgehog, you can place water and meat-based cat or dog food in a shallow dish for them.
Did you know? In some languages, the word for hedgehog is derived from the word “snake”, hinting at their eating habits.
4. Hedgehogs live in Africa, Asia and Europe but are not native to America and Australia.
According to their habitat, hedgehogs have adapted to the different conditions they face. Many hedgehog species, like the European hedgehog, thrive in grasslands and woodlands where the forest is not too dense.
5. Hedgehogs can swim and even enjoy doing this. It is not necessary for their survival, but they do it for fun.
They prefer lukewarm water, and chlorine, like there is in most pools, can cause them to have allergic reactions. To prevent hedgehogs from drowning when they are tired, you can make sure that they can easily exit your pool or similar waterbody in your garden.
6. Every day, hedgehogs travel several miles at night.
Hedgehogs like to make their rounds around gardens. They travel 2-8 miles per night, and their highest speed is estimated to be 4 mph. So, if you regularly see a hedgehog in your garden, it is more likely that you see many different ones instead of the same one every time.
7. To keep clean, hedgehogs lick themselves – like cats.
To see a video of a hedgehog cleaning itself, click here.
8. Hedgehogs, as we know them, have existed for 15 million years –in comparison, the modern human has been on this planet for 1.3 % of this time span.
The first human walked the Earth approximately 200,000 years ago, long after hedgehogs had evolved. This also means that they shared the planet with woolly mammoths and sabre tooth tigers.
9. Worldwide, there are 17 species of hedgehogs. Those living in the UK are European hedgehogs.
The European hedgehog has also been introduced to some Scottish islands. Most hedgehogs weigh about ½ to 2 pounds and measure 6-8 inches.
10. Hedgehogs hibernate in winter, and their hibernation period strongly depends on temperature.
In Britain, hibernation starts between November and January and ends between March and April in most cases. When hibernating, a hedgehog’s body temperature drops from 35° C to below 10° C, and their respiration slows down so that they take a breath only every few minutes.
11. When attacked, hedgehogs roll into a tight ball of spikes.
Among their most common attackers are badges and owls. Hedgehogs are extremely sensitive to sounds so they often roll into a ball when they hear something unfamiliar. To protect themselves further, they retreat into their burrows.
12. Hedgehogs have natural immunity against some snake venoms.
This is due to a protein called erinacin that is found in their muscles. However, if the dosage is too high, hedgehogs can still die from snake bites, such as those from vipers.
13. The belief that hedgehogs store food on their spikes is sadly a myth, leaves and fruit get there by accident and hedgehogs do not really care about their baggage.
This belief arose in the Middle Ages, but it has been found that this is not true. Usually, the spikes of a hedgehog lie flat on their back so there is not even a chance that they could carry much with them.
14. Although both hedgehogs and porcupines have spikes, they are unrelated. Porcupines are rodents, while hedgehogs are found in the same order as moles, shrews and gymnures.
Solenodons and desmans belong to the same order as hedgehogs, too. However, hedgehogs are the only family with spikes.
15. In the wild, hedgehogs become 3 to 7 years old.
In captivity, hedgehogs can become 10 years old due to a lack of predators and a more controlled diet. Keeping hedgehogs as pets is debated since they need time to go foraging and cannot be kept in solely a cage.