16 Fun Facts About Hedgehogs

Image credit: 
Thinkstock

After cats, hedgehogs might be the internet's favorite animal. But how much do you know about these spiky mammals—other than how cute they look when getting a bath?

1. A group of hedgehogs is called an “array.”

But it doesn't come up much, since hedgehogs are solitary creatures who usually come together only to mate.

2. Hedgehogs are illegal in Maine, Arizona, California, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Hawaii, and New York City.

The hedgie as a pet has gained popularity in the past decade—but some cities and states still qualify them as wild animals, which are not allowed to be kept domestically.

3. Each hedgehog has between 5000 and 7000 quills.

Muscles along the animal's back can raise and lower the quills to respond to threatening situations.

4. There are 17 different species of hedgehog, none of which are native to America.

Australia also has no indigenous hedgehogs; the hedgies in New Zealand were introduced by humans.

5. Hedgehogs rely on hearing and smell because they have very poor eyesight.

And even their limited sight is best in the dark as an adaption to their nocturnal lifestyle.

6. Unlike porcupine quills, hedgehog spikes are not barbed, and they're not poisonous.

The inside of the quills are mostly hollow, with a series of complex air chambers that make them light but strong.

7. Hedgehogs got their name from their preferred habitat—garden hedges—and the pig-like grunts they make.

Their taste for destructive insects makes them a historically welcome presence in English gardens.

8. Hedgehogs can hibernate, but not all do.

Which makes them one of only three animals in Great Britain that hibernate.

9. Hedgehogs are largely immune to snake venom.

This means that, although their typical diet consists of insects and berries, they can take down a viper in a fight and eat it, too.

10. The sea urchin is actually named after the hedgehog.

Before the more adorable name came into use, the spiky mammals were called "urchins" and thus inspired the name of the similarly spiky sea creatures.

11. Medieval bestiaries and illuminated texts show hedgehogs gathering food with their quills.

This is inaccurate. But affinity for the image has persisted.

12. In the precursor to Groundhog Day, hedgehogs were the supposedly portentous critters.

But when German settlers got to America and found no hedgehogs, they turned to the similar-enough groundhog for their winter-weather predictions.

13. In New Zealand, McGillicuddy's Serious Party once tried to get a hedgehog elected to Parliament.

They were unsuccessful.

14. There used to be such a thing as the International Hedgehog Olympic Games (IHOG).

Events included sprints, hurdles, and floor exercises.

15. One of the lesser-known Brothers Grimm fairy tales is called Hans My Hedgehog, about a boy who is born half hedgehog.

Not your style? Try The Hare and The Hedgehog.

16. When exposed to pungent smells or tastes, hedgehogs exhibit a behavior called “self-anointing” in which they rub frothy saliva on their quills.

The purpose of this behavior is unknown.

All photos courtesy of Thinkstock.

More from mental_floss...

April 4, 2014 - 7:00am
submit to reddit