What are Hedgehogs
Introducing Erinaceus europaeus (Latin scientific name to impress your friends with) also known as the West-European hedgehog, or me and my friends!
The West-European hedgehog is one of 17* species, and can be found throughout Europe - Italy, Spain, France, Germany etc, and, as you hopefully know from seeing one, throughout Great Britain (although we're not found on some Scottish islands)
Us hedgehogs have 4 legs, which are probably longer than you realise! Most of their length is hidden by our prickly coat. Our front legs have paws that look like little hands, whilst our back legs are longer and thinner.
(I guess I'm a little bit special with my shiny blue shoes on my back feet!)
Size & Weight
Just like you humans, some hedgehogs are bigger than others. However, a healthy adult hedgehog will weigh between 650 grams and 2kg (like Big George!). Hedgehog experts believe hogs need to weigh over 500g before hibernating to sleep safely until spring.
Us hedgehogs also vary in size, and can measure from 12 to 25cm (plus a tail), depending on age and gender.
We can live up to eight years in captivity, but often because of all the perils we face in the wild this is greatly reduced to 2-3 years.
We hedgehogs are the only British mammal with spines, so we are unique! We have a kind of 'coat' that's on our back, and contains thousands of creamy brown spines. What's the purpose of our coat I hear you say... Well, It's for protection!
We don't have many natural predators, but when we feel that we're in danger, we roll up into a ball, hiding ourselves in our spiny coat! Anyone trying to get to us is going to have to get through the spikes first!
Our bellies are covered in softer fur, so we try to keep those covered up as much as possible (which is easier said than done if your name is Big George!).
We are nocturnal, which means we only come out at night. It's the best time for us to find food, whilst avoiding some bigger animals which scare us (like you humans!). However, this means we are tired during the day, and spend most of it sleeping in our nests.
The Gardeners Friend
We are Insectivorous (eat creepy crawlies), but also generalists (eat all sorts of things) but you can learn more about what we actually eat in the What Hedgehogs Eat [link] section.
We're known as Hedgehogs because of our peculiar foraging habits. We like to root through hedges and other undergrowth in search of our favourite food - small creatures such as insects, worms, centipedes and snails. Us hedgehogs don't believe in table manners, so we move through the hedges making pig-like grunting sounds - hence, the name hedgehog.
When I'm hunting for food, I rely primarily upon my senses of hearing and smell because my eyesight isn't that good, however our eyes are adapted for night-time vision, so I'd do better than you in a nightime eye test.
*The other 16 species can be found across parts of Central and Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa and New Zealand. (Our cousins in New Zealand are actually an invasive species so aren't overly welcome.) Despite the wealth of natural life, there are no hedgehogs native to Australia, and no living species native to the Americas. We do have a lookalike in Australia called an echidna, but we aren't related.