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Saturday, 27 June 2015

Hedgehog

ANATOMY

The word 'hedgehog' comes from the Middle English 'heyg', because of the mammal's love of hedgerows, and 'hoge', from its pig-like snout.

The word “hedgehog” was first seen in English around 1450. Before that, it was called hurcheon, ile, irchepil or irchin.

The hedgehog's four-inch legs allow it to run as fast as a human can walk.

On average a hedgehog's heart beats 300 times a minute.

There are 5,000 to 6,000 sharp spines on a hedgehog's back. They don't have any spines on their face, throat, chest, stomach or legs.


The spikes of a newborn hedgehog begin to appear within 24 hours.

The spikes last about a year each, fall out, and then a new one grows in its place.

Baby hedgehogs' skin is inflated with fluid during birth, keeping the prickles under the surface.

Hedgehogs are immune to snake venom, a trait shared with mongoose, honey badgers, and pigs.

BEHAVIOR

Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals who sleep during the day and come out at night.

In cold climates, hedgehogs hibernate over the winter. In hot climates, they are liable to sleep through the summer. This is called aestivation.

When not hibernating, a normal hedgehog travels a mile a night over a home range of up to 125 acres, in search of food and a mate.


POPULATION

Hedgehogs were brought to New Zealand in the 19th century by homesick British expats trying to make it more like the UK.

The hedgehog, now a much-loved and fiercely protected creature, was once heavily hunted because of the erroneous belief that it sucked milk from the teats of recumbent cows at night.

Half a million bounties were paid for hedgehog heads in the latter half of the 17th and first half of the 18th centuries. The head of a hedgehog was priced at four pennies - four times that of a polecat, wild cat, stoat or weasel.

There were around 1.5 million hedgehogs in the UK in 2006, a decline of around 30% since 2001.

Loss of hedgerows and the spread of intensive farming has reduced cover, leaving country-dwelling hedgehogs at the mercy of hungry badgers, which can use long claws to prise them open, even when they are curled up in a ball.

Suburban areas, where badgers are less common, boast the most hedgehogs, with up to 30 per square mile.

An average of 273 hedgehogs are killed on British roads every day.

FUN FACTS

There are 17 species of hedgehog.

Hedgehog litters vary between one and 11 babies.

A baby hedgehog is called a hoglet.

Hedgehogs have their own 'Olympic Games', organised by hedgehog fanciers in a different city each year. Males and females are segregated for sprints and hurdles to stop the males from being distracted by female scent.

Sources Daily Mail June 1 2011, The Observer January 7, 2007, Daily Express July 28, 2016, Globalanimal.org

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