Difference Between Hedgehog & Porcupine

At first encounter, hedgehogs and porcupines can leave onlookers marveling at their formidable array of sharp quills, serving as a defense mechanism against potential threats.

However, beyond their prickly appearances, the hedgehog and the porcupine belong to separate animal families and exhibit distinctive features, behaviors, and habitats.

By understanding their unique traits, we can better understand the evolutionary adaptations that have shaped their lives and allowed them to thrive in different environments around the world.

Here are the main differences between hedgehogs and porcupines:

Family and Classification:

Hedgehogs: Hedgehogs belong to the family Erinaceidae and are part of the order Eulipotyphla, which includes other small insectivorous mammals like moles and shrews.

Porcupines: Porcupines, on the other hand, belong to the family Erethizontidae (New World porcupines) or Hystricidae (Old World porcupines) and are part of the order Rodentia, which includes other rodents like mice, rats, and squirrels.

Physical Appearance:

Hedgehogs: Hedgehogs are small, spiny mammals with a rounded body shape. They have short, sharp spines or quills covering their back and sides, while their belly is covered in soft fur.

Hedgehogs typically have a pointed snout and small eyes.

Porcupines: Porcupines are larger than hedgehogs and have a more robust body structure. They are covered in long, sharp quills over their entire body, including the belly.

The quills on porcupines are larger and more noticeable than those of hedgehogs. Porcupines have a rounder head with a blunt snout and relatively large eyes.

Habitat and Distribution:

Hedgehogs: Hedgehogs are found in various habitats, including forests, grasslands, and urban areas. They are native to Europe, Asia, and Africa. Different species of hedgehogs have different geographical distributions.

Porcupines: Porcupines are more widely distributed around the world. Old World porcupines are found in Europe, Asia, and Africa, while New World porcupines are found in the Americas.

They inhabit diverse environments such as forests, deserts, and grasslands.

Behavior:

Hedgehogs: Hedgehogs are primarily nocturnal creatures that are active at night. They are solitary animals that spend their daytime hours sleeping in nests or burrows.

Hedgehogs are insectivores with a diet of insects, worms, and other small invertebrates.

Porcupines: Porcupines are mostly nocturnal, but some species may also be active during the day. They are generally more social animals, and some species are known to live in small family groups.

Porcupines are herbivores and feed on various plant materials, including bark, leaves, and fruits.

Defense Mechanisms:

Hedgehogs: When threatened, hedgehogs curl into a tight ball, exposing their spiky quills as a protective shield.

This defense mechanism makes it difficult for predators to attack them. Hedgehogs may also make a hissing or clicking sound to deter threats.

Porcupines: Porcupines have a unique defense mechanism due to their quills. When threatened, they raise their quills and can swipe their tail or backside at the attacker.

The quills have barbs or tiny hooks that make them stick to the predator’s skin, causing pain and difficulty removing them.

Behavior and Diet

When it comes to behavior, hedgehogs are solitary animals that are active during the night, while porcupines tend to be more social creatures and active during both day and night.

Hedgehogs are known to curl up into a tight ball when threatened, whereas porcupines will use their sharp quills for self-defense.

As for diet, hedgehogs are insectivores and primarily eat insects, snails, slugs, and other small invertebrates. They are also known to eat fruits, leaves, and plants.

On the other hand, porcupines are herbivores that feed on a variety of vegetation, including leaves, bark, and plants.

It’s worth noting that hedgehogs are adept at eating a diverse range of foods, including insects and rodents, while porcupines only eat vegetation.

Hedgehogs have a more varied diet, which makes them more adaptable to different environments.

In summary, while hedgehogs are primarily insectivores that also eat fruits and plants, porcupines are herbivores that feed on vegetation.

Hedgehogs are solitary animals that are active during the night, while porcupines tend to be more social creatures and active during both day and night.

Domestication and Legal Issues

When it comes to domestication, hedgehogs, and porcupines have different histories. Hedgehogs have been kept as pets for centuries, with evidence of domestication dating back to ancient Egypt.

However, in some places, it is illegal to own a hedgehog as a pet. For example, in California, Georgia, Hawaii, and New York City, it is illegal to keep a hedgehog as a pet.

On the other hand, porcupines have not been domesticated and are not kept as pets.

It is important to note that just because hedgehogs are kept as pets in some places does not mean they are suitable for everyone.

Hedgehogs require specific care, such as a proper diet, temperature, and handling.

They also have specific personality traits that may not be compatible with everyone. Before considering a hedgehog as a pet, it is important to research and understand their needs.

When it comes to legality, it is important to check local laws and regulations before considering a hedgehog or porcupine as a pet.

In some places, it may be legal to own one of these animals, but in others, it may not be.

Additionally, even if it is legal to own one of these animals, there may be specific regulations regarding their care and housing.

It is also important to note that keeping a hedgehog or porcupine in captivity is not always the best option.

These animals are wild and have specific needs that may not be met in a backyard or garden setting. Additionally, keeping them in captivity can be stressful and lead to health problems.

In summary, hedgehogs have been domesticated and are kept as pets in some places, but it is important to research their specific needs before considering one as a pet.

Porcupines, on the other hand, are not kept as pets and are not domesticated.

It is important to check local laws and regulations before considering either of these animals as a pet, and to consider their specific needs and whether captivity is the best option for them.

Lifespan and Reproduction

When it comes to lifespan, hedgehogs have a relatively long life span for their size. Larger species of hedgehogs live 4-7 years in the wild, while smaller species live 2-4 years.

However, hedgehogs can live up to 16 years in captivity due to a lack of predators and a controlled diet.

On the other hand, porcupines have a longer lifespan than hedgehogs. They can live up to 18 years in the wild and up to 20 years in captivity.

When it comes to reproduction, both hedgehogs and porcupines reproduce sexually.

Hedgehogs mate in the late summer and early autumn, and the female hedgehog can give birth to 3-4 litters per year, with an average of 4-5 hoglets per litter.

The gestation period for hedgehogs is around 35 days.

Porcupines, on the other hand, mate in late summer and early fall, with a gestation period of around 7 months. After giving birth, the female porcupine can nurse her young for up to 6 months.

Porcupines usually give birth to one offspring at a time, and the young porcupine, also known as a porcupette, is born with soft quills that harden within a few hours.

In conclusion, both hedgehogs and porcupines have unique lifespans and reproductive habits. While hedgehogs have a shorter lifespan than porcupines, they can give birth to more litters per year.

Porcupines, on the other hand, have a longer gestation period and give birth to only one offspring at a time.

Species and Subspecies

When it comes to hedgehogs and porcupines, there are several species and subspecies to consider. Here’s a breakdown of some of the most common ones:

Hedgehogs

Hedgehogs are part of the Erinaceidae family, which includes 17 different species. Some of the most well-known hedgehogs include the European hedgehog and the Amur hedgehog. Hedgehogs are found throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Porcupines

Porcupines, on the other hand, are part of the Hystricidae family. There are two main types of porcupines: Old World porcupines and New World porcupines.

Old World porcupines are found in Europe, Asia, and Africa, while New World porcupines are found in the Americas.

Some of the most well-known porcupine species include the North American porcupine, which is found in Canada and the United States, and the crested porcupine, which is found in parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Subspecies

Within these larger categories, there are also many different subspecies to consider. For example, the European hedgehog has several subspecies, including the Algerian hedgehog and the Southern white-breasted hedgehog.

Similarly, the North American porcupine has several subspecies, including the Canadian porcupine and the Mexican hairy dwarf porcupine.

It’s important to note that while there are many different species and subspecies of hedgehogs and porcupines, they all share certain characteristics, such as their spines and their nocturnal habits.

However, there are also significant differences between these animals, such as the length of their quills and the size of their bodies.

Hedgehog Vs Porcupine in Tabular Form

ParticularsHedgehogPorcupine
AppearanceSmall and roundLarge and robust
SizeTypically 5-12 inches (13-30 cm) in lengthCan reach up to 25-36 inches (60-90 cm) in length
QuillsShort and rigid spinesLong and barbed quills
Quill ReleaseCan’t actively shoot quillsCan actively shoot quills
HabitatFound in Europe, Asia, and AfricaFound in various parts of the Americas, Europe, and Asia
NocturnalMostly nocturnal, active during the nightMostly nocturnal, active during the night
DietInsects, worms, small invertebratesBark, leaves, fruits, and roots
BehaviorGenerally solitary and non-aggressiveGenerally solitary and non-aggressive
DefensiveCurl into a ball and erect quills for protectionErect quills and may charge or lunge
RangeLimited ability to climb treesExcellent climbers
VocalizationsRarely vocalizesMay make a range of vocalizations
Lifespan3-8 years on average5-10 years on average

Conclusion

These are some of the key differences between hedgehogs and porcupines. While they may share some similarities in their spiky appearance, their classification, physical characteristics, behavior, and habitats are distinct.

So, the next time you come across a spiky creature, take a moment to appreciate its unique characteristics and the evolutionary journey it has undertaken.

Hedgehogs and porcupines are not just prickly wonders but living testaments to our planet’s remarkable diversity and adaptability.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the differences between hedgehogs and porcupines?

Hedgehogs and porcupines are two entirely different animals with distinct characteristics.

Hedgehogs are small, insectivorous mammals with spiny fur on their backs, while porcupines are larger rodents covered in sharp quills.

Does a porcupine roll into a ball?

Yes, porcupines have the ability to roll into a ball as a defense mechanism. When threatened, they will raise their quills and turn their back to the attacker, making it difficult to attack or eat them.

Do hedgehogs have quills or fur?

Hedgehogs have spiny fur on their backs, which are modified hairs that have become stiff and sharp. These spines are used for protection against predators.

How are porcupines quills different from hedgehog spines?

Porcupine quills are longer and thicker than hedgehog spines, and they are also barbed, making them difficult to remove once they are embedded in the skin of a predator.

Hedgehog spines, on the other hand, are shorter and less dangerous.

Is a hedgehog related to a porcupine?

No, hedgehogs and porcupines are not closely related. They are from different families and have different physical and behavioral characteristics.

What is the difference between a hedgehog and a porcupine?

The main difference between hedgehogs and porcupines is their physical appearance.

Hedgehogs are small, insectivorous mammals with spiny fur on their backs, while porcupines are larger rodents covered in sharp quills.

They also have different defensive behaviors, with hedgehogs curling up into a ball and porcupines raising their quills. Additionally, they have different diets and habitats.

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