Hedgehogs – both wild and pet hedgehog advice

Are Hedgehogs Rodents?




hedgehog in a ball

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I guess it is easy to see why people may ask “is a hedgehog a rodent” as their faces and other body parts do look rather rodent-like, not too dissimilar to rats actually. But that is not the case.

Hedgehogs are not rodents but are mammals belonging to the Erinaceidae family (order Eulipotyphla).

Although rodents are also mammals, belonging to the Rodentia family, the main difference is in their teeth. A rodent’s incisors continue growing, being worn down as they gnaw through wood etc. whereas a hedgehog’s teeth do not.

Are hedgehogs rodents

Table of Contents

What is the difference between a hedgehog and a rodent?

As stated above a rodent’s teeth continue to grow throughout their lives as they become worn down by gnawing but a hedgehog’s teeth are a permanent size.

Another difference between a hedgehog and a rodent is their diet:

  • Hedgehogs eat a great variety of foods, which also include insects. As they are insectivores they have canine teeth to facilitate this. They have even been known to eat small snakes and seem to have quite a high tolerance to venom.
  • Rodents are generally exclusively herbivores. Because of that they have a specific part of their digestive system, called a caecum, which helps to digest the cellulose in plants, which hedgehogs do not possess.

Examples of rodents are squirrels, beavers, chipmunks, guinea pigs, mice and rats.

Hedgehogs and porcupines are not related. Many people assume they are related as they both have spiky quills for protection.

Hedgehog quills are much shorter than that of a porcupine, at no more than an inch long.

Hedgehogs roll into a tight ball when attached which hides the soft parts of their bodies and makes their quills stand up all around their bodies. The quills of hedgehogs do not fall out when used in defense.

are hedgehogs and porcupines related
A porcupine

A porcupine’s quills can be many inches long.

When attacked a porcupine does not roll into a ball. It points its tail and the quills in it towards the predator. If any stick into the attacker the ends of the quills have barbs which cause the quill to detach and remain stuck into the attacker, causing them to flee.

Porcupines actually belong to the rodent family, oddly enough, even though they probably look less like rodents than hedgehogs do.

Hedgehogs are generally much smaller than porcupines too and have nowhere near as many quills.

Are hedgehogs marsupials?

is a hedgehog a marsupial - An Antechinus
An Antechinus

As well as being considered rodents by some, others believe hedgehogs to be marsupials. Hedgehogs are not marsupials but I imagine that perhaps because they may look a little like opossums this may be where the confusion comes from.

Hedgehogs do not have pouches to rear their young in, which is why they are not marsupials. They are in fact mammals of the Erinaceidae family.

There is however an animal in Australia called an Antechinus which is a marsupial and resembles a hedgehog in that it has a similar face and prickly fur. Although it may sometimes be confused with a hedgehog it is not one.

Are hedgehogs related to echidnas
An Echidna

Echidnas, also known as spiny anteaters, do have spines that cover their bodies which they use for defense, rather like hedgehogs (and porcupines) but they are not actually related.

Echidnas do not give birth to live babies as hedgehogs do but instead lay eggs.

are hedgehogs rodents or marsupials
A tenrec

Although some tenrecs can resemble hedgehogs they are not actually related (even though there are types of tenrec called lesser hedgehog tenrec and greater hedgehog tenrec).

The live in Africa and some islands close to Africa, such as Madagascar and Mauritius, and their closest relatives are otter shrews.

What are hedgehogs’ closest relatives?

hedgehog rodent
A Gymnure

The closest relatives to hedgehogs are actually moles, shrews and moonrats. Many people also believe shrews to be rodents as they look so similar to mice.

Hedgehogs are also closely related to the Gymnure which is a small shrew-like mammal that lives in south-east Asia.

Are hedgehogs native to Australia and New Zealand?

Hedgehogs are not naturally found in either country.

They are actually not even allowed to be imported into Australia as they are banned as exotic animals.

They are found throughout New Zealand but that is because they were introduced in the 1870s. They have no natural enemies in New Zealand so they have thrived and are now considered something of a pest and it is believed they are destroying some native animal species.

A program of trapping, hunting and poisoning them to eradicate them has begun.

Ironically there are plans to send some hedgehogs back to the UK (where they came from originally) as they are becoming a threatened species there.

Do hedgehogs shoot quills?

Hedgehogs cannot shoot their quills at all. In fact, although it is a common misconception that porcupines do this, they cannot shoot their quills either.

Perhaps people believe they can because sometimes they are seen to do this in cartoons but the reality is that they cannot.

Another reason why people may believe porcupines can shoot them could be that as porcupine quills have barbs on their tips if they puncture a predator’s skin they will detach themselves from the porcupine and remain embedded in the predator. Hedgehogs quills do not have barbs and do not detach themselves either.

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