Just the Cutest, Most Insane Facts About Hedgehogs

This post was written by Lindsey Robertson on The Dodo.

1. Their name has the cutest origin ever

The story behind the hedgehog’s name is so simple, it’s brilliant. These little critters generally inhabit hedges, shrubs, brush, and the like. And when they root around for food, they tend to make little snorting noises, not unlike a pig. And thus, the moniker “hedgehog” was born.

2. They have. . .unusual self-defense practices

Hedgehogs have a behavioral quirk that many still find baffling. When he encounters a potent or offensive-smelling object, the hedgehog will proceed to chew on the object. He will then use the saliva-substance mixture to coat his quills. This not only makes the quills a bit stinky and unappealing to predators, but it also makes pricks from the quills more irritating to the skin. Talk about resourcefulness!

(Flickr: Tomi Tapio K)

3. They’ve had a rocky history

In regions where they have been introduced as a species, hedgehogs have been a bit misunderstood. In certain areas, such as Scotland, the little prickly fellows have become prosperous enough to actually be viewed as pests. Any hedgehog population problems were solved by culling. Luckily, this practice was done away with in 2007, in favor of simply relocating the hedgehogs.

4. They are the sea urchin’s namesake

Hedgehogs have been featured prominently in historical literature, with many medieval texts referring to the creatures as “urchins.” Therefore the spiny sea creature’s name of “sea urchin” means “sea hedgehog.”

(Flickr: Winfried)

5. They can make huge corporations bend to their will

Okay, not really. But in 2006, McDonald’s made changes to their packaging purely to appease hedgehog-lovers. According to The British Hedgehog Preservation Society, wild hedgies were getting their heads stuck in McFlurry containers and were unable to get out due to their quills getting stuck. This would lead to the hedgehogs either dying of starvation and/or dehydration, or wandering blindly into streams or busy roads. Thankfully, McDonald’s was willing to change its packaging design, and altered the McFlurry cup to be safer for sweet-toothed little hedgehogs.

6. They have special super powers against snakes

Though not completely immune, hedgehogs have a higher tolerance for snake venom than other creatures their size, such as guinea pigs. Apparently, hedgehogs can even tolerate doses of arsenic that would kill up to 25 people.

(Flickr: Mark Fletcher)

7. They’re known as gardeners’ friends

Hedgies consume spiders, snails, worms, and other garden-ravaging species, which is why they are often considered to be beneficial by many gardeners. Some gardeners make the mistake of luring hedgehogs to their gardens with dairy products such as milk or cheese, but this is not advised since hedgehogs are generally lactose-intolerant.

8. They’re the original groundhogs

Before coming to America, Germans would celebrate Candlemas Day (Groundhog Day) by waiting to see if a hedgehog saw his shadow upon coming out of his burrow. If he did, this was indicative of six more weeks of winter. Upon arriving in Pennsylvania, German settlers decided that the American groundhog was a close enough substitute to the hedgehog—and thus Groundhog Day was born.

(Flickr: Mark Wheadon)

9. Not everyone agrees that they should be pets

There is some dispute as to whether or not hedgehogs should be domesticated as pets. Though hedgehogs can be very docile and agreeable pets, there are still numerous states where they are considered to be wild animals and are illegal to own. One of the arguments against domesticating the hedgehog is the fact that they are naturally nocturnal, and being awake during the day to interact with humans is not good for them. The other concern is the proper early socialization that is necessary for a hedgehog to be a suitable pet.