Hedgehog facts

What's in a name?
The Latin name for the European hedgehog is Erinanceus Europaecus, however they have a variety of regional names and these included: hedgepig, urchin, furzepig and graineog.

Hedgehogs are nocturnal, so it is unusual to see them out during the day, although over the summer months they are forced to come out when it may still be light as the days are that much longer.

Out and about at night

Hedgehogs are covered in around 5,000 to 7,000 spines, which are each between 2cm to 3cm long. Spines are modified hairs and each one has a brownish tip. They are lost through out the year just as we lose our hair. The spines only cover the top half of a hog; the underneath is covered in a course thick hair, which keep them dry and warm.

An adult hog can weigh anything between 500 grams to 2 kilograms. Babies known as hoglets normally weigh between 120 grams to 150 grams when weaned and must reach between 500 grams to 600 grams by autumn to survive hibernation.

They are quite good swimmers and have been known to swim across quite wide rivers and are quite good climbers.

Hogs love to fight between each other but it tends to be all mouth with very little physical contact.

They come in a variety of colours, which include black, brown, grey, cream and white.

Although hogs are not territorial they do have a home range and will travel the same gardens and sometimes route each night. An average home range is between 10 to 50 hectares. It is known males tend to have a larger home range, so they have the chance to meet females and therefore father more offspring. On average a hedgehog can travel between two to three kilometres (one to two miles) per night looking for food.

Hedgehogs can run quite fast around two metres (six mph) and the first time someone sees their legs they are surprised at just how long they are.

And finally hedgehogs seem to have very little fear of falling, so tend to get themselves stuck in uncovered drains, steep sided holes and ponds or swimming pools.

The hedgehog year

In hibernation

In hibernation

Sleeping – although if the weather is warming up they may be showing signs of waking up.

They should be fully awake by now and very busy looking for food to replace lost weight and finding themselves a mate.

Still feeding and finding themselves mates, if they haven't already done so. The females are now thinking about having her babies and some may already have done so if we had an early spring

Mum will have already given birth or will be very near to having her young whilst males will be on the look out for another female to make pregnant.

The very early litters will now be leaving their nest and learning to forage with mum, they are now slowly becoming independent and will soon leave mum.

If mum has managed to get rid of her babies she will be looking to start a second family. It is this second litter that often has to be taken into care and over wintered, as many of the hoglets are not big enough to survive the hibernation process.

Late hoglets will often be found out during the daylight hours desperately looking for food to build up their weight.

They are trying to put on weight so they can sleep the whole of the winter and will be looking for a good nesting site. Take care on bonfire night!

All hogs should be asleep by now; autumn hogs may still be found trying to fatten themselves up.

In hibernation - If the weather warms up sometimes hogs will wake up for a top up and then go back to bed when they've had their fill.

The above is a guide it is possible that these behaviors will change from one year to the next as the hedgehog life is dictated by the weather. For example the long winter of 2010/2011 saw hedgehogs forced to hibernate longer than normal. Also many exceptionally late litters in 2010 were born meaning almost every hedgehog carer was fuller than normal with hoglets to over winter.

During hibernation a hedgehogs heat beat slows to about 20 beats per minutes and breathing is also slowed right down. Hibernation normally starts around October but this does depend on the weather, a temperature of around 4°c is ideal for hibernation. It can take up to half an hour for a hedgehog to wake from this very deep sleep, so can be very vulnerable during times of flood, as they will not be able to wake up quickly enough. Hogs normally wake up around April time, although if spring comes early they will emerge when the temperature starts to pick up. The nests they make during the winter months are known as 'hibernacula.'

This behaviour is quite funny when you see it for the first time if not a little disconcerting. No-one really knows why they do it but it seems to be connected with new and exciting smells. Self-anointing is when a hedgehog will contort itself into almost impossible positions and lick himself or herself, covering themselves in a froth. Disgusting when you have to pick them up afterwards! Take a look in our gallery, which features a picture of a hedgehog self-anointing.


Babies (known as hoglets)
Gestation is around 30 days and babies are born without spines but do have around 100 spine buds, which emerge within hours of birth. By the time they leave the nest they have around 300 spines, which are just a good a defense as an adults spines.

Just days old

They are born with their eyes closed (these open when they are around 10 - 14 days old) and they unable to curl up making them very vulnerable for the first few weeks of life. A litter size can be a single hoglet (normally to a first time mum) to up to five hoglets. Sometimes a mum will give birth to more but some will die, as mum will not be able to feed this many babies successfully.

If a mum manages to raise her litter before winter sets in she may try and have another litter. This is where autumn hedgehogs have problems because they do not have the summer to reach the hibernation weight.
Autumn hoglet