When threatened, hedgehogs contract their stomach muscles and roll into spiky, compact balls, protecting their vulnerable faces and bellies. The needle-sharp spines covering their backs lift up, crisscross, and create an almost impenetrable barrier. Lions have been observed trying—and failing—to bite rolled-up hedgehogs. Hedgehogs are nocturnal and, although not territorial, solitary. They can travel several miles searching for food.
In response to strong smelling foods or the presence of other hedgehogs, these animals engage in a behavior called self-anointing that involves spreading a large amount of foamy saliva over their backs and sides with their long tongues. While the precise reason for this behavior is unknown, it may clean the spines and act as an insecticide and it may play a part in courtship.
Fortunately for a hedgehog mother, her four to five babies are born with their spines just below the skin in a fluid-filled space. Within 24 hours the fluid is absorbed and their prickly spines begin to emerge. The young are weaned at about 40 days and begin to lead their solitary lives.
Widely distributed throughout the savannas of central Africa
These omnivores eat a variety of small invertebrates, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals.
- Length: 7–9 inches
- Weight: 8–25 ounces