Hedgehog Day: 8 Things to Know About These Prickly Creatures

Guess what? Feb. 2 is Hedgehog Day. Yes, it is also Groundhog Day. Confused? Groundhog Day actually originates from Hedgehog Day. You see, way back in the day, German settlers brought the tradition of using a hedgehog to prognosticate spring’s arrival to Pennsylvania. Since there weren't any hedgehogs to be found in the New World, they settled for the next best thing: the groundhog. We could go more into the history of Feb. 2(we haven’t even touched on Candlemas yet), but, to be honest, we really just wanted an excuse to share some of our favorite things about hedgehogs.

So without further ado, let's celebrate this special day with some interesting facts about hedgehogs and adorable photos of the prickly creatures.

Facts to Know About Hedgehogs

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1. Wild hedgehogs hail from all over the globe.

There are roughly 15 species of wild hedgehogs found throughout the world. The animal is native to Europe, Africa and Asia.

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2. Hedgehogs have prickly quills.

Like porcupines, hedgehogs have prickly quills that cover their backs, but unlike the porcupine, hedgehogs cannot shoot their quills out in defense. But if a predator happens to pick up a hedgehog in his mouth, he’s in for a rude awakening — hedgehogs have approximately 6,000 quills! This defense mechanism can make handling a hedgehog tricky, so if you’re around one who's nervous, exotic animal veterinarian Dr. Laurie Hess recommends holding him in a small towel until he calms down.

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3. Hedgehogs curl up into tight balls when threatened.

Thanks to his strong back muscles and sharp quills, a hedgehog can roll up into a tight ball as a way to protect himself from predators. Don’t even try to unfurl a curled-up hedgehog — Dr. Laurie Hess says it’s next to impossible. He’ll uncurl on his own when he feels relaxed.

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4. They camouflage themselves with their own spit.

So this is going to sound like an odd habit, but it’s totally normal hedgie behavior. Dr. Laurie Hess says that when a hedgehog encounters a new scent, he’ll lick and bite it, then form a spit ball in his mouth with the new scent. Next, he uses his tongue to spit out that scented spit ball over his spines as a way to attempt to camouflage himself with the new scent. Weird, right? But cool!

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5. They are insectivores.

An insectivore is exactly what you think: an animal who eats insects. But bugs aren’t the only things hedgehogs eat. In the wild, this animal also munches on snails, amphibians, lizards, snakes, birds’ eggs, fish, carrion, mushrooms, grass, roots, berries and melons. As pets, hedgehogs tend to eat insects like crickets, mealworms, earthworms and wax worms in addition to pelleted food manufactured just for them.

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6. Hedgehogs are nocturnal.

Like wild hedgehogs, domesticated hedgies are usually more active at night. Expect them to sleep during the day and run around in their enclosures while you’re snoozing. Light sleepers take note: You might not want to keep this animal in your bedroom.

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7. They love to eat.

"Hog" is an apt name for this creature. The hedgehog is the second-most commonly obese exotic pet Dr. Laurie Hess sees in her practice. If a hedgehog gains too much weight, he won’t be able to roll up into a ball or fit on his wheel. Overfeeding pelleted foods and never letting hedgehogs out of their cages to run around can lead to weight gain and obesity.

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8. Hedgehogs respond to their owner’s voice and appearance.

When it comes to hedgehogs, the human-animal bond is strong. In fact, if a hedgehog is feeling nervous, he may unroll only if he sees or smells his owner. Of course, the owner has to properly socialize her hedgehog or he won’t tolerate being handled by anyone.

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