Hedgehog is a tiny mammal, found in all parts of the globe except North America and Australia. Perhaps that saves some American and Australian children of scars on hands, as the hedgehogs have their backs covered with thousands of sharp and hard spines, posing threat to any human would want to touch them.
Although very small - 13 to 30 cm (5 to 12 inches) – these creatures are certainly not defenseless. Their razor-sharp spines distinguish them from the other small omnivore mammals (such as the White-tailed Antelope Squirrel). These spines make them a hard prey for most predators as a Hedgehog can roll up in a ball, point their spines in every direction. They sleep in this position, too, therefore it’s very hard to catch them off guard.
The "ball" defense indeed leaves no vulnerable place on the Hedgehog's body
Hedgehogs can be seen at night, as they’re nocturnal creatures. Their diet consists of fruit, insects, frogs, snakes, roots and other things. Hedgehogs are mostly solitary which means they don’t group up to tackle all the things they have to do. They sleep most of the day, resting, and some species even hibernate during the winter. Currently there are 17 species of Hedgehogs.
One might think that mating is difficult for Hedgehogs, but in fact Mother Nature has taken care of it and no Hedgehog males are being injured during mating. The gestation period is 35 – 58 days and usually 3 – 6 Hedgehogs are born. The newborns are extremely vulnerable to predators, as they are blind and their quills are not yet sharp, therefore they’re fully dependent on the mother. The lifespan of Hedgehogs is usually around 3 – 7 years, depending on the species, or even up to 10 years in captivity (due to lack of predators and abundance of food).
Newborn Hedgehogs are very unprotected
These creatures are very often sympathized by people, as they have a relatively social behavior and even a wild Hedgehog will sometimes allow a human to pick him up in hands. Also, Hedgehogs sometimes emit a squeaky or a puffing sound, which sounds very amusing. This is why these creatures seem quite sweet for most people.
It’s also no wonder some people have Hedgehogs as pets. They’re said to be quite playful and easily tamable – you can even teach your Hedgehog pet to stand on it’s hind legs. They can also serve as a pest control – they can easily get you rid of insects and other vermin.
As cruel as it may seem, especially for those who have Hedgehogs as pets, many cultures use these tiny mammals as a food source. Many southern people used and still use them in their diets and sometimes even medical values are attributed to the meat of these spiky mammals.
Hedgehogs are definitely cute and affectionate creatures and it’s no wonder more and more people choose them as pets. Maybe one day they will be as popular as cats or dogs. Whatever happens, most people will agree, that encountering a Hedgehog is more interesting than seeing a wild rat run past.