The European hedgehog is found in temperate fields, especially field edges and hedgerows. They prefer drier areas that are not thickly wooded and are occasionally found in scrub and sand dunes. European hedgehogs are commensal and are often found in home gardens, cemeteries, parks, agroecosystems, and other areas that provide appropriate places for hibernation. It commonly occupies elevations from sea level to 2400 m throughout its geographic range. (Beilby, 1791; Burton, 1969; Gaglio, et al., 2009; Hof and Bright, 2010; Johnston, 1903; Lawrence and Brown, 1973; Southern, 1964)
The European hedgehog is a small, round animal with short legs that raise it about 1 inch above the ground. It is plantigrade and has 5 well developed pads and claws on each foot. The first and fifth toes are smaller and weaker than the second, third, and fourth toes. Its coat is white and brown and consists of 3/4 to 1 inch spines, arranged in a radiating pattern, that cover all but its cheeks, throat, stomach, and limbs. Areas not covered in spines are covered in a coarse hair that is yellow-brown in color, though white hedgehogs have been seen. It has an elongated, conical head and snout, a small braincase, a short neck and tail, and well developed eyes and ears. The length of its body ranges from 135 to 265 mm, and males are usually slightly larger than females. The tail is about 20 mm long. (Burton, 1969; Forrest, 1899; Gordon, 1904; Johnston, 1903; Kindahl, 1959; Lawrence and Brown, 1973; Rondinini, 2007; Southern, 1964; Step, 1921; Walker, 1968)
The spines covering the European hedgehog's body have white tips and bases and are covered with alternating brown and black bands. They are hollow and have longitudinal grooves, which decrease their weight. Spines are made of keratin and are attached to the skin in a similar way to hair. Each spine grows from a follicle in the skin that is attached to a small muscle (arrector pili) that is used for piloerection. When a hedgehog rolls into a ball, all of the spines can be erected simultaneously, which is made possible by the panniculus carnosis, a sheet of muscle that covers its back. An adult hedgehog usually has around 5,000 spines covering its body. (Burton, 1969; Forrest, 1899; Gordon, 1904; Johnston, 1903; Kindahl, 1959; Lawrence and Brown, 1973; Rondinini, 2007; Southern, 1964; Step, 1921; Walker, 1968)
incisors such that the lower incisors fit between them. The dental formula for is 3/2, 1/1, 2/3, 3/3. (Burton, 1969; Forrest, 1899; Gordon, 1904; Johnston, 1903; Kindahl, 1959; Lawrence and Brown, 1973; Rondinini, 2007; Southern, 1964; Step, 1921; Walker, 1968)has lacteal and permanent teeth. The permanent dentition features widely space upper
European hedgehogs are solitary and non-territorial. They begin the mating process when a male encounters a female, at which time the male encircles the female while she lowers her head and makes a variety snorts, grunts, and hisses. If the male is successful in courting the female, he attempts to mount her several times. After numerous copulations, the male leaves the female, and does not provide any parental care to his offspring. He continues to roam alone and attempts to mate with other females until he begins preparing for hibernation. Males and females have multiple mates each season. (Burton, 1969; Hof and Bright, 2010; Rondinini, 2007; Southern, 1964; Walker, 1968)
Weaning usually occurs 6 weeks after birth, at which time young European hedhogs begin venturing out of the nest with their mother. They begin to forage and create an overwintering nest on their own. Most individuals are sexually mature by the first spring after their born. (Bunnell, 2009; Rondinini, 2007)
In the wild, European hedgehogs can live up to six years. In captivity, they can live as many as ten years. (de Magalhaes and Costa, 2009)
As day length decreases, European hedgehog begin looking for sufficiently insulated hibernation nests. In colder areas, hibernation usually begins in October and lasts until April; in warmer areas, hedgehogs may only hibernate during the coldest of winters. Hedgehogs survive the cold temperatures by storing fat to be used as insulation and as an energy reserve to wake up when necessary. These periodic breaks in hibernation occur every 1 to 2 weeks and last for 1 to 2 days, during which hedgehogs forage for food and urinate. Provided sufficient resources, captive hedgehogs do not hibernate.
European hedgehogs require large foraging areas (often no more than 100 acres) due to inconsistent and unreliable distribution of food. When food is more abundant, such as in home gardens or other agroecosystems, European hedgehogs may have a home range as small as 12 to 25 acres. Males generally have home ranges up to twice the size the female’s home range. (Jones and Digger, 2009; Rondinini, 2007)
European hedgehogs are not particularly noisy, and make mostly grunting, snorting, and hoarse squeaking sounds. Adults are vocal during mating, while feeding, and occasionally when captured. Young may squeak and whistle while in the nest. Due to its nocturnal behavior, European hedgehogs rely heavily on their senses of smell and hearing. In addition to having a well developed sense of smell, they, like many mammals, have a Jacobson's organ in their palate. The organ may have a role in social behavior as both male and female hedgehogs have a variety of scent glands. While the mechanisms of hearing in Long-eared hedgehog, has found it capable of processing high-frequency sounds up to 45kHz. (Burton, 1969; Forrest, 1899; Johnston, 1903; Rondinini, 2007; Southern, 1964; Step, 1921)have not been well studied, research on a related species, the
European hedgehogs are omnivorous, but predominantly feed on insects. They favor beetles, ants, bees, wasps, earwigs, butterflies and moths. Hedgehogs may also eat cockroaches, crickets, grasshoppers, snails, eggs, lizards, snakes, frogs, small rodents, and carrion. (Burton, 1969; Gaglio, et al., 2009; Gordon, 1904; Johnston, 1903; Jones, et al., 2005; Rondinini, 2007; Southern, 1964; Step, 1921)
Predators of the dogs, foxes, snakes, large owls, and badgers. To protect themselves, hedgehogs have the ability to curl into a defensive ball that exposes only erected spines. In order to form into a ball, they constriction the panniculus carnosus muscle. When this occurs, the muscles associated with each spine contract, leaving all of the hedgehog’s spines erect. Some predators, such as badgers and foxes, may be able to gain access to the hedgehog by wedging their noses into the crease where the top and bottom of the spiny coat meet. Predators have also been known to drop a balled hedgehog from a height so as to shock or injure the hedgehog long enough for them to take advantage of its exposed underbelly. (Hof and Bright, 2010; Johnston, 1903; Rondinini, 2007; Vermeulen, et al., 2009)include
Hedgehogs are omnivorous, feeding on a wide variety of animal (especially insect) and plant material. They may help control insect pest populations in some areas. Hedgehogs are hosts to a variety of parasites including nematodes (Crenosoma striatum, Eucoleus aerophilus, Capillaria erinacei, Capillaria ovoreticulata and Capillaria spp.), trematodes (Brachylaemus erinacei), acanthocephalans (Oliganthorhynchus erinacei), ticks (Ixodes hexagonus), and fleas (Archeopsylla erinacei). (Gaglio, et al., 2009; Hof and Bright, 2010)
Hedgehogs are routinely kept as pets, but the European hedgehog is forbidden as a pet in Europe. Due to their broad diet, hedgehogs may help control insect pests. They have proven useful for the study of numerous diseases including foot and mouth disease, yellow fever, and influenza. Their hair and spines are useful in assessing for environmental pollutants including arsenic, silver, cadmium, lead, cobalt, and Persistant Organic Pollutants (POPs). Traditional remedies have incorporated the blood, entrails, or ashes of European hedgehogs, and some rituals involving hedgehogs have been used to cure baldness and predict the weather. Ancient Romans raised hedgehogs for their meat, and they used parts of the hedgehog, especially their spiny coat, for training work animals. (Burton, 1969; D'Havé, et al., 2005; D'Havé, et al., 2006; Hof and Bright, 2010; Southern, 1964; Vermeulen, et al., 2009)
Hedgehogs are potential vectors for a number of parasites and pathogens including ticks, fleas, mites, ringworm, influenza, yellow fever, Salmonella enteritidis, leptospirosis, and foot and mouth disease. (Burton, 1969; Gaglio, et al., 2009; Southern, 1964)
Formerly a common sight in the UK, local populations of (Hof and Bright, 2010)appear to be rapidly declining. Despite this, is listed as a species of least concern on the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species. The reasons for its decline are unclear, however, has been included in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.
Colin Roberts (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, John Berini (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.
Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.
living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.
uses sound to communicate
living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.
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.
flesh of dead animals.
either directly causes, or indirectly transmits, a disease to a domestic animal
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
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.
parental care is carried out by females
A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.
forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.
Referring to a burrowing life-style or behavior, specialized for digging or burrowing.
the state that some animals enter during winter in which normal physiological processes are significantly reduced, thus lowering the animal's energy requirements. The act or condition of passing winter in a torpid or resting state, typically involving the abandonment of homoiothermy in mammals.
referring to animal species that have been transported to and established populations in regions outside of their natural range, usually through human action.
offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
active during the night
generally wanders from place to place, usually within a well-defined range.
an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals
the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.
chemicals released into air or water that are detected by and responded to by other animals of the same species
the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.
Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).
communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them
scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.
breeding is confined to a particular season
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.
uses touch to communicate
that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer a