Hedgehogs are fantastic, hypoallergenic, low-maintenance, quirky, exotic pets that you can add to your home. Hedgies can be a great addition to your home for a multitude of reasons, from their lack of need for specialized equipment, to their hypoallergenic nature (no sneezing here!), to their fun personalities, and everything in between.
Hedgehogs are all the rage! Are you looking to become a part of the hedgie craze? Before you dive into hedgehog ownership, you probably have a few questions. Are you wondering exactly how big your hedgehog may get or what types of hedgehogs are available?
If adding a hedgehog to your family tree is something that you are contemplating, then this article has been written with you in mind. We’re here to answer all your questions about hedgehog shapes, sizes, colors, and much more.
Before we dive too deep, let’s start with the basics on our pokey little friend, the hedgehog.
All About Hedgies
Hedgehogs are small mammals native to Asia, Europe, New Zealand, and Africa. They have the ability to thrive in a multitude of habitats, from dry deserts to dense forests.
Hedgies are easily recognizable by their long, slender faces, tiny eyes, and trademark quill-covered bodies. Hedgehog quills are comprised of keratin, the same material as our hair and fingernails. Contrary to popular belief, hedgie spines are not poisonous and cannot be “launched” as a form of defense.
Hedgehogs are nocturnal creatures, meaning that they sleep during the day (up to eighteen hours!) and are most active at night. They have been known to travel more than two miles from their burrows searching for food.
In the wild, hedgies forage for their food. Their diet can consist of roots, vegetation, fungi, fruit, frogs, bird eggs, insects, snakes, carrion (dead animals), and much more. Hedgies have a voracious appetite and can devour one-third of their body weight during these nighttime feeding sessions, according to the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF).
Hedgehogs, just the same as honey badgers, mongooses, and opossums, contain a specialized protein within their blood that can aid in neutralizing toxic snake venom, providing the hedgie protection from many venomous snakes. Although the immunity is not complete and hedgehogs can still fall ill from a venomous snake’s bite, this particular feature allows for hedgies to prey upon snakes without falling prey themselves.
There are seventeen different species of hedgehogs, which we’ll get into shortly, that span five different groups. These categories of classification (genera), based on the locations where each species is found, are Paraechinus (South Asian, Middle Eastern, and North African) hedgehogs, Mesechinus (East Asian) hedgehogs, Hemiechinus (South and Central Asian) hedgehogs, Erinaceus (North Chinese, Russian, Middle Eastern, and European)hedgehogs, and Atelerix (African) hedgehogs.
The two most common species of hedgehog kept as pets are the African pygmy hedgehog and the European hedgehog. Did you know that it is believed that the Romans were the first to keep hedgehogs as pets?
Now that you know a bit more about hedgehogs in general, let’s delve into the different species of hedgehogs, where they are found, and other key facts about each one.
As previously mentioned, seventeen different species of hedgies are found across the globe. They are:
African pygmy hedgehog (four-toed hedgehog)
African pygmy hedgehogs, the most popular species of the hedgehog kept as a pet, are primarily found in Africa, specifically in Mozambique, Somalia, Senegal, and The Gambia. These hedgies prefer grassy areas or savannahs.
Four-toed hedgehogs only have four toes on their back feet, hence their name, in comparison to other hedgehog species that generally have five toes. The fur of the African pygmy hedgehog is typically gray in color with dark gray or brown spines (quills) that have white tips.
African pygmy hedgies normally like to dine on spiders, snails, grubs, some vegetation, and other insects.
European hedgehog (common hedgehog)
The European hedgehog, the second most widespread species of the hedgehog kept as a pet, is found across Europe. These hedgies prefer grasslands and densely wooded areas but have adapted to living in urban settings.
Common hedgehogs are typically brown in color and prefer to munch on slugs, earthworms, beetles, fruits, vegetables, cat food, caterpillars, and even dog food.
North African hedgehog
The North African hedgehog, also called the Algerian hedgehog, is native to Algeria, Malta, Tunisia, Spain, Morocco, and Libya. These hedgies prefer dense forests over desert grasslands.
Algerian hedgehogs have light-colored quills, a brown head, brown legs, and oversized ears. They enjoy a wide variety of foods, including worms, insects, small birds, mollusks, nuts, and fruits.
Southern African hedgehog
The Southern African hedgehog is native to, you guessed it, South Africa. They can be seen in Botswana, Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and other South African areas. These hedgies prefer grasslands and will make their homes in holes or under leaf piles.
The Southern African hedgehog has a distinct white band of hair across its shoulders, front legs, and forehead. Their preferred diet consists of roots, leaves, grasshoppers, slugs, worms, small birds, fruit, leaves, and mollusks.
Somali hedgehogs are indigenous to Somalia and prefer to live in the open grasslands. They have darkly colored quills with brown fur on their hind end.
Amur hedgehogs are found in China, Russia, and the Korean Peninsula. These hedgies like to live on the edges of forested areas and in grassy areas.
They are very similar in appearance to the European hedgehog and like to eat mice, snails, frogs, earthworms, and centipedes.
Southern white-breasted hedgehog
The Southern white-breasted hedgehog, also called white-bellied or white-chested hedgehogs, are found in South West Asia. These hedgies do not burrow underground to create their homes but instead prefer to bed in nests made of grass and leaves.
Northern white-breasted hedgehog
The Northern white-breasted hedgehog can be found in a variety of Northern European areas, from Poland to Austria and even as far south as the Greek Islands. These hedgies enjoy a variety of foods, from foraged vegetation to dog or cat food!
The long-eared hedgehog can be found in Central Asia and prefer milder climates. They like to burrow under bushes to create their homes.
These little guys have one key feature that sets them apart from their cousins. Care to guess what that might be? It’s the long ears!
The long-eared hedgehog also has shorter quills than most other hedgies and is one of the faster runners of the hedgehog family.
Indian long-eared hedgehog
The Indian long-eared hedgehog calls areas in Northern India and Pakistan home. These little hedgies can tolerate high summer temperatures as well as cold winters.
The Indian long-eared hedgehog is typically dark in color with long ears. These hedgies enjoy insects as a main source of food, as well as water.
The Daurian hedgehog is found in Northern Mongolia and Russia and prefers to live in rocky, grassy areas. They enjoy dining on eggs, mice, beetles, and ants.
Hugh’s hedgehog makes its home in Manchuria and Central China and prefers open fields over dense forests. The significant difference between Hugh’s hedgehog and its relatives is that most hedgehogs are strictly nocturnal, but these hedgies enjoy foraging for insects during the daylight hours.
Gaoligong Forest hedgehog
The Gaoligong Forest hedgehog is only found on Mt. Gaoligong in the Gaoligongshan Nature Reserve. This hedgie was only recently discovered (in 2018) and is known for its distinctive patterns of color on its spine.
One of the smallest hedgehogs, Desert hedgehogs, is found in some Middle Eastern countries and parts of North Africa. They prefer to live in desert areas and are known to dine on scorpions, as well as frogs, snakes, bird eggs, and other insects.
Named for the man who discovered it, Johann Friedrich von Brandt, Brandt’s hedgehog is found in Central Asia and areas of the Middle East and prefers drier climates.
Indigenous to India, the Indian hedgehog prefers dry, sandy deserts but will tolerate different climates. They have a very unique look with their dark, spotted faces that resemble a raccoon.
Our final species of hedgehog is the bare-bellied hedgehog, which is found in Southeastern India. Not too terribly much is known about the bare-bellied hedgehog, as it is very rare.
Now that you know about the seventeen different species of hedgehogs, let’s get a bit more in-depth about hedgehog breeding, birthing, and growth.
Hedgehog Breeding and Birthing
Hedgehogs are relatively solitary animals and usually only meet up to breed. The males will attempt to attract willing females with their lengthy courtship rituals that involve rhythmic snorting, puffing, and a lot of circling.
Once pregnant, the female hedgie will give birth to four to seven young, called hoglets or piglets. At birth, hoglets weigh around one-third of an ounce and resemble chubby grub worms. For the first three to four weeks of life, piglets consume only the milk of the mother.
Around weeks three to four, the hoglets will begin to open their eyes, develop fur, and start the first quilling process (the replacement of old quills with new ones). At this stage, hoglets will become less reliant on their mother for food.
At weeks six to eight, mother hedgehogs begin pushing the hoglets out of the nest and into the wild yonder to begin living independently.
How Fast Do Hedgehogs Grow?
After six to eight weeks, wild piglets will leave their mother’s nest to start life on their own. Hedgehogs will typically reach physical maturity at six months of age, but this can vary with species.
The sexual maturity of the female hedgehog is not typically reached until two years of age, but males reach reproductive maturity as early as eight weeks of age.
How Big Do Hedgehogs Get?
The majority of hedgehog species can fit in the hand of the average adult. They can range in length from four to twelve inches and can weigh anywhere from five to fifty-six ounces.
The average length of common pet breeds are:
- European hedgehog: 9.5 inches
- African pygmy hedgehog: 8.2 inches
The average weight of domestic pet breeds are:
- European hedgehog: 27.5 ounces
- African pygmy hedgehog: 16 ounces
Genetics and nutrition can play a large part in how big your hedgehog will grow. To achieve optimal growth, it is recommended that you feed your hedgehog a diet that consists of a high protein (30% to 35%) and low fat (10% to 15%) ratio.
Now that you’re wiser about the ways of hedgehog breeding, birth, development, and size, let’s move on to the topic of housing your hedgie.
How to Choose The Right Hedgehog Cage
When choosing a home for your hedgehog, you’ll need to make sure to take into consideration a few things, namely the size of the cage, the safety features, ease of cleaning, and adequate ventilation.
In the wild, hedgies are known to roam upwards of two miles a night, so you will want to provide ample roaming space for your new companion. The minimum recommended square footage is four square feet (24 in x 24 in), but most hedgehog aficionados suggest opting for six square feet (24 in x 36 in) to provide your pet with the space it needs. The cage you choose should have enough room for an exercise wheel, nesting box, litter box, and feeding area.
Your hedgehog cage should have a solid floor, as mesh or wire flooring can injure your hedgehog’s feet. You will also need to be sure to inspect the cage thoroughly for any sharp edges or large gaps where your hedgie could injure themselves.
The cage you house your hedgehog in is equivalent to the roof over your head. You wouldn’t want to sit in filth all day; neither does your hedgehog. Choosing a cage that you can easily clean on a weekly basis will make your life easier and your hedgehog happier.
Adequate ventilation is key to fresh air for your hedgehog. Without proper ventilation, humidity and ammonia levels can build, causing health issues for your hedgehog.
There are a multitude of housing choices on the market for your hedgehog. They include wire cages, aquariums, plastic tubs, do-it-yourself cages, and wooden cages. Honestly, as long as the housing is safe, large enough, well-ventilated, and easily cleaned, the choices are endless.
Now that you know about choosing the proper cage for your hedgehog, let’s talk about purchasing a hedgie.
Where to Purchase a Hedgehog
Before purchasing a hedgehog, it’s crucial that you do a bit of homework to ensure that you’re bringing home a happy, healthy animal. With the hedgehog craze on the rise, more and more people are focusing on making a profit and not on the animals.
We recommend searching out an experienced, reputable, USDA-licensed hedgehog breeder for your purchase. You can also look into the option of adopting a hedgie or check with your local pet store.
Regardless of the method you choose, make sure that the hedgie you are bringing home is healthy and no less than eight weeks of age.
Let’s hit a few fun hedgie facts before we go!
Fun Hedgie Facts
Did you know?
- It is illegal to own a hedgie in some states, including Georgia, Hawaii, Arizona, and California.
- Hedgehogs can have more than 5000 quills.
- Not a single species of the hedgehog is native to North America.
- Hedgies need glasses but have a fantastic sense of smell.
- Some hedgehogs hibernate.
- Hedgehogs may resemble mini-porcupines but are in no way related to the animal.
- Hedgies are thought of as insectivores but will eat pretty much anything in their path.
- Wild hedgehogs will hibernate during cold temperatures.
- Hedgehog quills are actually called spines.
- Hedgies cannot shoot their quills, nor are they poisonous.
- Hedgehogs are terrestrials, meaning they spend their time with their feet on the ground.
- Echidnas are not related to hedgehogs, although they resemble the spiky mammals.
- Hedgies can live for almost a decade when properly cared for.
- Hedgehogs have 44 teeth.
- Hedgies CAN swim (contrary to popular belief).
- Hedgehogs are considered an invasive species in Scotland and New Zealand.
- Ancient Persians believed that hedgies were sacred animals.
- Hedgehogs can grunt, snuffle, chirp, scream, click, or hiss to communicate different messages.
- European hedgehogs are the longest and heaviest of the hedgehogs.
- The smallest hedgehogs are the African pygmy hedgehog.
- There is a biological protein named the Sonic Hedgehog protein.
- Hedgehogs have long been used in traditional medicines in many cultures.
- It is believed that the hedgehog is the oldest living mammal.
Hedgehogs can be a great addition to your home. We hope that we’ve enlightened you on the different species of hedgies (there are seventeen of them), how big hedgehogs can grow, how quickly hedgehogs reach maturity, how to find a reputable source to purchase your hedgehog from, and how to properly house your hedgehog.
Caring for a hedgehog can be a rewarding task that fills your life with personality and quirky fun! Here’s to enjoying your new, spiny, spunky friend!