Hystrix indicaIndian crested porcupine

Geographic Range

The Indian porcupine (Hystrix indica) is found throughout southeast and central Asia and in parts of the Middle East, including such countries as India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Israel, Iran and Saudia Arabia.


The Indian porcupine is highly adaptable to multiple environments. Although they usually favor rocky hill sides, the species can also be found in tropical and temperate scrublands, grasslands, and forests. They are also found throughout the Himalayan mountains, reaching up to elevations of 2400 meters (Gurung and Singh 1996).

Physical Description

On average, the Indian porcupine's head and body measure 70-90 centimeters (cm) in length, with the tail adding an additional 8-10 cm (Prater 1965). Its hair is highly modified to form multiple layers of spines. Beneath the longer, thinner spines lies a layer of shorter and thicker ones. Each quill is brown or black in color, with alternating bands of white. Spines vary in length, with the neck and shoulder quills being the longest, measuring 15 to 30 cm (Gurung and Singh 1996). The tail is covered with with shorter spines that appear white in color. Among these, are longer, hollow, rattling quills that are used to alarm potential predators (Ellerman 1961). The feet and hands are broad, with long claws that are used for burrowing.

  • Range mass
    11 to 18 kg
    24.23 to 39.65 lb


Gestation for the species, on average, lasts 240 days (Gurung and Singh 1996). Brood size varies, ranging from2 to 4 offspring per year (Prater 1965). Young are born with their eyes open, and the body is covered by short soft quills. The Indian porcupine is usually monogamous, with both parents being found in the burrow with their offspring throughout the year.

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average gestation period
    113 days


  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    27.1 years


When irritated or alarmed, the Indian porcupine raises its quills and rattles the hollow spines on its tail. If the disturbance continues, the species launches a backward attack and clashes its rear against the offending animal. This action drives the spines deep into the enemy, often leading to severe injury or death (Ellerman 1961). The majority of the damage is done by the short quills that are hidden beneath the longer, thinner spines on the tail and back. Quite often, these quills become dislodged and remain in the victim.

Indian porcupines are nocturnal, with the species seeking shelter in caves, between rocks, or in its burrow during the day (Prater 1965). The burrow is usually self-constructed, with a long entrance tunnel, multiple exits and a large inner chamber(Gurung and Singh 1996). Gnawed bones and most of the excavated dirt are usually left at the entrance (Prater 1965).

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

The main food source for the Indian porcupine is vegetable material of all kinds, including fruits, grains, and roots (Prater 1965). They have also been known to chew on bones, in search of minerals (such as calcium) that help their spines grow (Gurung and Singh 1996, Prater 1965). The species utilizes both natural plants and agricultural crops as food sources.

  • Primary Diet
  • herbivore
    • lignivore
    • eats sap or other plant foods
  • Plant Foods
  • roots and tubers

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Throughout its range, the Indian porcupine is hunted as a food source (Gurung and Singh 1996). Also, its role as a herbivore may allow it to help with the spread of seeds and pollen.

  • Positive Impacts
  • food

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

The Indian porcupine uses crop plants extensively as a food resource, thus leading to a significant loss for agriculture. In addition, the species can be extremely destructive to gardens and landscaping, as they burrow through or consume the resources in these areas.

Indian porcupines can cause some medical problems as well, with the possibility that humans or, more significantly, pets may come into contact with their quills.

Conservation Status

Throughout its range, the Indian porcupine is common and does not face a significant threat towards its continued existence (Gurung and Singh 1996). Its adaptability to a wide range of habitats and food types helps insure their healthy populations.

Other Comments

The main predators for this species is man and large cats. There have been recorded fatalities of tigers and leopards that were caused by the Indian porcupine as it defended itself (Prater 1965, Gurung and Singh 1996).


Kurt Schlimme (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

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


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.


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.


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

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


found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map

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


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


lives alone


uses touch to communicate

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


Ellerman, J. 1961. The Fauna of India. Delhi, India: Manager of Publications.

Gurung, K., R. Singh. 1996. Field Guide to the Mammals of the Indian Subcontinent. San Diego: Academic Press.

Prater, S. 1965. The book of Indian Animals. Bombay: Diocesan Press.