Atelerix albiventrisfour-toed hedgehog

Geographic Range

The African pygmy hedgehog ranges in southern Africa from Senegal to Sudan and Zambia. (Kelsey-Wood 1995,


Atelerix albiventris is found in the desert biome. (

Physical Description

A relaxed Atelerix albiventris>>has a generally oval shape. The limbs are short and the animal's round body is low to the ground. The African Pygmy Hedgehog has a very short tail. When threatened, the animal has the ability to contract a series of muscles, rolling itself into a compact ball shape, forcing its quills out in all directions. In a relaxed state, the quills lie flat against the animal's body. The average length of <<Atelerix albiventris is approximately 7-9 inches when the animal is relaxed. When rolled into the hedgehog's characteristic defensive ball, the animal is about the size of a large grapefruit. The species is sexually dimorphic with the females slightly outsizing the males. Typical coloration is agouti. Hedgehogs with this coloring have spines that are brown or gray with cream tips. The face and underside is covered with a soft, white fur. There are other, more rare colorations, although agouti is by far the most common.

(Kelsey-Wood 1995,

  • Average mass
    600 g
    21.15 oz
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    0.828 W


Atelerix albiventris generally breeds once or twice a year. As spontaneous ovulators and primarily solitary animals, this species mates when the conditions are right and they encounter the opposite sex. They typically mate in rainy, warm seasons, when food is plentiful, usually between October and March in southern Africa. Gestation lasts 35 days. The young are born with spines already present, but covered with a membrane. Within a few hours of birth this membrane dries up and the spines immediately start growing. Weaning begins around the 3rd week and ends between the 4th and 6th weeks. The young leave their mother soon thereafter. The young are sexually mature around two months of age. (Brown & Wrobel 1997, Kelsey-Wood 1995,

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average gestation period
    35 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    84 days


  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    11.4 years


The African pygmy hedgehog is a solitary animal. As a nocturnal creature, it constantly moves, covering up to several miles in one night. Although they are not territorial, individuals do keep distance from other African pygmy hedgehogs. For instance, males typically keep at least 60 feet between one another. There are a number of unique behaviors present in this species. One is the process of self-annointing. When an animal discovers a unique taste or scent it creates a frothy saliva which it proceeds to spread across its body in a series of remarkable contortions. The reason for this behavior is unknown. It is most likely related to either reproduction and mate selection or self-defense. Another behavior is the animal's use of summer estivation or winter hibernation to help it survive when the temperature is not at its optimal 75-85 degrees.

(Kelsey-Wood 1995, MacNamara 1998)

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Atelerix albiventris is omnivorous butprimarily insectivorous. It feeds primarily on invertebrates such as spiders and insects, occasionally also consuming smalll amounts of plant matter or small vertebrates. African pygmy hedgehogs are opportunistic feeders with an extremely high tolerance to toxins. They have been known to eat scorpions and small poisonous snakes with no ill effects. (Kelsey-Wood 1995, MacNamara 1998)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Atelerix albiventris has some economic importance. In the United States many successful breeders sell animals to the pet trade. Additionally, because Atelerix albiventris eats many things deemed "pests" by humans, the hedgehog's diet makes it an important part of the ecosystem and local pest control. (Kelsey-Wood 1995)

Conservation Status

In addition to the wild animals found in African deserts, a closed breeding stock exists in the United States to service the pet trade market. It is no longer legal to transport the animals out of Africa, so their populations there are not threatened by the pet trade. (

Other Comments

African pygmy hedgehogs live approximately 2-3 years in the wild. In captivity, they can live to be 8-10 years old, mostly due to a lack of predation and better nutrition. (MacNamara 1998)


Jennifer Nichols (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


uses touch to communicate


Brown, S. and Wrobel, D. 1997. The Hedgehog: An Owner's Guide to a Happy Healthy Pet. Howell Book House, IN.

Kelsey-Wood, D. 1995 The African Pygmy Hedgehog as Your New Pet. TFH Publications, NJ.

Lincoln Park Zoo. 1997.

MacNamara, B. 1998