Confuse between hedgehogs vs porcupines? These spiny critters might look similar at first glance. However, they are not related at all. They are very different species that belong to an entirely different order. Porcupines are rodents. In contrast, hedgehogs are not.
Hedgehog vs Porcupine cute mammals are often confused with each other because they both have needle-like sharp spikes or quills on their body. Though, they not only vary in size but have a different diet, habitat, and defensive behavior. Additionally, their needle-like quill features also tend to perform various roles.
These exotic animals might be exciting pets to have. But you should know how these two are unique as animals in their particular way before choosing the one to get.
In this hedgehog vs porcupine breakdown, we explore a list of significant differences that separate them from one another. Besides, we will also highlight some fascinating facts about hedgehogs and porcupines. To better understand their similarities and contrast, let’s take a close look at them in turn!
Is A Hedgehog And A Porcupine Related?
Many people believe that they are close relatives of one another. Although, they are not. Despite their similar appearance, these two critters are actually not related at all.
Science classified both mammals in different orders. Hedgehog belongs to the Erinaceidae family and is part of the Eulipotyphla order. So, they are closely related to shrews and European moles. On the other hand, porcupines are part of the extensive Rodentia order and belong to both the Hystricidae and Erethizontidae families. Thus, their close cousins are mice, beavers, and mice than hedgehogs.
Hedgehog vs Porcupine- How Many Species Are There?
Generally, both hedgehog and porcupine refer to a relatively broad group of related animals. There are more porcupines species than hedgehog species in the world. You may be most familiar with African pygmy hedgehog as they are mostly kept as a pet. However, there are 17 different species of hedgehog in the world. In contrast, more than two dozen species of porcupine spread across the globe. Thus, there is a startling level of diversity within each of these animal groups.
What Is A Hedgehog?
Let’s start with the hedgehog, a small, spiny, and cute mammal with a cone-like shape. This little critter is native to Africa, Asia, and primarily Europe and mostly lives in forest and desert areas. Hedgehogs are primarily nocturnal creatures (active in the night), but some are diurnal as well and prefer a solitary lifestyle. They sleep for longer hours than porcupines.
Furthermore, the hedgehog belongs to the Erinaceidae and falls under the Eulipotyphla animal order. They are mainly carnivores and like to eat insects, slugs, centipedes, worms, and small snakes. These minute mammals tend to hibernate during cold climates. Moreover, these highly vocal animals have poor eyesight and use their excellent sense of hearing and smell to search for food and detect predators. They are mostly kept as pets and prove a great garden companion to pick off and control pests.
What Is A Porcupine?
Now it’s the turn of a large and slow-moving porcupine, a terrestrial, strictly nocturnal mammal with long and needle-like quills all over the body. Porcupines classify as large rodents and belong to both the Hystricidae and Erethizontidae families. The main types of these creatures are Old World Porcupines and New World Porcupines. Earlier are indigenous to Europe, Asia, and America. At the same time, the latter is native to North and South America. Moreover, porcupines can survive under more tropical conditions than hedgehogs.
Furthermore, they are mainly herbivores and tend to feed on fruits, buds, grass, leaves, stems, and bark. These rodents have more than 30000 needle-like spines on their body. They tend to detach their spines when threatened. Moreover, they have poor eyesight, and some of them are good tree climbers. They are much larger than hedgehogs and not something you want as a pet inside your house.
Hedgehog vs Porcupine- What’s The Major Difference?
Hedgehog and porcupine look very similar. So, how can you differentiate one from the other? Well, they have many different characteristics that make them more alike than they really are.
So, let’s dive into detail to know how these both are special and unique in their specific way.
A Matter of Size- Two Ponds or Twenty?
One of the key differences between these two spiky animals is their size. Hedgehogs are pretty tiny than porcupines. It is impossible to quote a blanket figure as sizes vary dependent on the species.
The size of hedgehogs ranges between 4 to 2 inches, with a tiny tail (it does not grow more than 2 In. long). In contrast, porcupines can grow to 20 to 36 In. Long with a long tail (8-10 inches). They are the second-largest rodent in North America (the first is the beaver).
Furthermore, hedgehogs usually weigh between 500 and 1000 grams and reach up to 2.5kg most in captivity. Generally, the average hedgie is around the size of the smallest porcupine species (South America’s Rothschild). Conversely, porcupines are heavier than hedgehogs and can weigh as much as 20 lbs. The largest species (crested porcupine) is around the size of a small Labrador.
Hedgehog Quills vs Porcupine Quills
A spiky appearance is the primary driver of confusion when it comes to hedgehog vs porcupine. There are thousands of spikes (also called quills or spines) on their bodies, making them look somewhat similar. Hedgehog is a spiky-skinned animal, while porcupine is a spike-covered mammal. In other words, porcupines have more prominent quills than a hedgehog has.
Generally, hedgehogs have 3000 to 7000 spines. Their spines are much shorter (measuring about only 1 In. longer). Moreover, they do not lose their spikes (except for quilling as a baby) and a few here and there throughout their lives like we lose hair.
On the other hand, porcupines can boast around 30,000 quills. Besides, they have long quills than hedgehogs (about 2-3 inches). Quills vary significantly in length in various species. African species have almost foot-long quills. One familiar fable about them is, they can shoot their spines. It is a pure misconception; they can not discharge their spikes. However, their quills are barbed and easily detachable. They quickly fall off and stick to the predator’s skin.
Generally, hedgehogs do not lose many of their spines except quilling. Young hedgehog (hoglet) goes through a phase (quilling) when their quills fall off to protect their mother. The adult spines grow back before they reach adulthood. This process is like how permanent teeth replace a human toddler’s milk teeth. It can be painful and leave hedgehogs in a bad mood.
On the other hand, porcupine’s quills fall off and regrow easily and frequently. Porcupettes (baby porcupines) don’t have to contend with quilling. Thus, they happily lose and regrow their spines throughout their lives.
Diet & Eating Behavior- Herbivore vs Carnivore
Hedgehogs are mainly meat-eater, and their primary diet consists of insects. They eat things such as beetles, worms, caterpillars, centipedes, snails, and slugs. Moreover, they also eat other invertebrates or even mice, small snakes, frogs, baby rodents, and little birds. Yet, it does not stop there; they enjoy eggs, fruits, grass, roots, and some vegetables as well.
In contrast, porcupines are mainly herbivores. North American porcupines regularly climb trees to search for food and typically eat twigs, leaves, bark, fruits, and green plants (like clover). Unlike their American cousins, African porcupines are ground-bound and opt for ground-based diet sources. They eat fallen fruits, bark, roots, tubers, and bulbs. Porcupines are not entirely herbivorous. Thus, sometimes enjoy carrion or animal carcasses too.
Hedgehogs tend to hibernate during cold months. They usually hibernate for nearly five to six months (from October through April). During these months, their bodies temperature can be as low as 36°F. Moreover, they transfer their nest during hibernation at least once. Only a few are seen out and about during the winter season.
In contrast, porcupines do not hibernate and remain active all year long. During cold months, they sleep in for more extended hours. Besides, they stay near their burrows even when they forage for sustenance.
Both hedgehogs and porcupines have quills that act as a defense mechanism for them. However, they both use their spines differently to defend themselves. It is the most noticed difference between them.
If a hedgehog feels physical threats, it rolls into a ball and erects its spikes while keeping its soft body parts tucked away, friendly, and safe. In this way, they hide all vulnerable extremities, and the predator does not find anything to bite. Until they feel safe, you can only touch a tight, spiny ball. Their predators are mostly owls, foxes, wolves, and badgers.
On the other hand, the porcupine does not turn into a ball. Instead, It will arch its back and raise its quills while shaking its body and waving its tail. Then it attempts to hit the predator, so its quills fall off easily and stick to the attacker. Its sharp quills can cause severe injury or even death. Porcupines are mostly prey to bobcats, owls, wolves, lions, coyotes, fishers, and lynx.
Both porcupines and hedgehogs can live for around seven years on average before predators catch them in the wild. However, species kept in captivity in zoos or as pets usually have a longer lifespan because they are protected from predators.
A hedgehog’s longest recorded lifespan is 17 years, while some porcupines have lived for 27 years.
Geographical Location & Habitat
Wild hedgehog endemic to Asia, Europe, Africa, and New Zealand. They are not native to America. The various hedgehog species make their nest in a wide range of habitats such as forests, meadows, savannas, deserts, and woodland. Some specifically European species also live in urban areas such as gardens, parks, and farmlands.
In contrast, porcupines are all-terrain than hedgehogs and widespread globally. Old World porcupine family is native to Africa, Southern Europe, and Asia. New World porcupines found in North and South America. They will live just anywhere, mixed forest to desert shrub and even the tundra. Besides, They make their dens in tree branches, rock crevices, and hollow trees. New World family is good tree climbers and spend a lot of time on trees. In contrast, the Old World Cousins are ground-bound.
Porcupine vs Hedgehog- What’s The Similarities Between Them?
Let’s look at some similarities that drive confusion between a hedgehog and porcupine:
- Both are prickly mammals.
- They both have spines for their defense.
- Both have tails.
- They are native to Europe, Asia, and Africa
- Both have poor eyesight.
- They are nocturnal animals and prefer a solitary lifestyle.
Hedgehog vs Porcupine- Can They Be Domesticated?
Yes!! Both animals can be domesticated, but it is a bit challenging. For instance, you can train a porcupine, but it becomes violent if you try to be more affectionate with them. That’s why they are not often kept as pets.
Conversely, Hedgehogs has a very calm personality. Besides, they are small and easily manageable. Therefore, many people keep them as pets. African pygmy hedgehogs are specifically ideal pets to have. However, it would be best if you considered the following quirks before having the one:
- They have very complex emotions that are often challenging to interpret.
- You need to ensure correct housing, diet, and space requirement because they are high maintenance.
- They are not legal as pets in some places. So, you may need to obtain a permit.
Hedgehog vs Porcupine vs Echidna
Echidna is another spiky creature and one of the weirdest animals on the earth that deceptively look like the mammals in question (hedgehog vs porcupine).
Still, they are related only in appearance; otherwise, they fall under an entirely different order known as Monotremata (egg-laying mammals) order. Echidnas are mid-sized, larger than hedgehogs but smaller than most porcupines. They weigh between two and five kg.
Moreover, they are also known as “spiny anteaters” because they resemble South American anteaters. They have coarse hair in between their quills and a relatively long beak-like snout.
In captivity, this small animal can live for up to fifty years.
Hedgehog vs Porcupine- FAQs
Q: Is a hedgehog a porcupine?
A definite No!!! They both are distinct animals with a range of unique characteristics. Apart from their spiky appearance, they have a minimal similarity.
Q: Which is larger: a hedgehog or a porcupine?
Porcupines grow larger and longer than hedgehogs. Even the smaller species of porcupines might be bigger than the largest hedgehog.
Q: Do hedgehogs bite you?
No, they do not bite. Hedgehogs tend to prove very good companions. So, if you are looking for an exotic pet, then a hedgehog is an excellent deal.
Q: Is porcupine poisonous?
Not really!! Quills from porcupines are not poisonous. However, in some cases, quilled animals may or may not die. So, it is recommended to seek medical help immediately if your pet is quilled. It will help to heal damaged tissue and relieve the pain a bit faster.
Q: Can you cuddle with a hedgehog?
Yes!! But never forget to wash your hands after handling them. Never kiss or snuggle your pet hedgie. It can spread Salmonella germs that will make you sick.
Q: How fast are a hedgehog and a porcupine?
A hedgehog is not the fastest critter. It can only run four mph. If you think a porcupine can run fast, forget about it. These clumsy mammals are slow for their size. They can run a maximum of 6 mph.
Final Thoughts: Prickly, But Not Related
Hedgehogs and porcupines are the weirdest and wonderful creatures on our planet. However, both have a prickly and cute appearance in common but differ in many ways.
We hope this hedgehog vs porcupine guide helps you to differentiate them from each other. So, next time you see a spiky mammal, don’t panic and try to determine either it is a hedgehog or a porcupine!