The common hedgehog belongs to the hedgehog family and is a member of the forest hedgehog genus. Translated from Latin, an ordinary hedgehog means nothing more than a "thorny barrier".
An adult hedgehog is endowed with five to six thousand needles that are brownish in color; the number of teeth on the lower jaw is sixteen, and on the upper jaw - twenty. On the paws there are five fingers, which are endowed with sharp claws. The middle fingers are longer, with their help common hedgehogs take care of their thorns.
Common hedgehogs, choosing their place of life, avoid continuous conifers and swamps. The habitats of common hedgehogs can be found in small glades, copses, forest edges or floodplains of rivers. It easily gets along in the immediate vicinity of a person, so it can often be seen in gardens and parks.
The life span of hedgehogs in their natural habitat varies from three to five years. In captivity, hedgehogs can live up to ten years of age.
The pulse rate of common hedgehogs in the summer months is approximately one hundred and eighty beats per minute, in the winter months, when animals lie dormant, it can drop to twenty beats per minute.
Hedgehogs often adapt to living in close proximity to humans. Often these animals are kept as pets.
The distribution area of common urchins consists of the western and eastern parts. As for the western part, it covers the territories of Western Siberia up to Tomsk, Transcaucasia and the Caucasus, as well as, of course, European territories. As for the eastern part, it stretches from the territories of Southern Transbaikalia to the shores of the Yellow and Japan Seas.
The common hedgehog is small. The body length of the common hedgehog varies from twenty to thirty centimeters, the tail is approximately three centimeters long, and the body weight ranges from seven hundred to eight hundred grams. The muzzle of the common hedgehog is elongated, and the ears, as a rule, are less than three and a half centimeters, the hedgehogs that live in Cyprus have larger ears. The nose of these animals is constantly wet.
The common hedgehog has many needles. They are short, their length does not exceed three centimeters, and on the head and on the sides, the length of the needles barely reaches two centimeters. Inside the needles are filled with air, hollow. Adults of common hedgehogs are usually endowed with about five to six thousand needles. The number of needles in young individuals is somewhat less - about three thousand.
The activity of common hedgehogs begins at night. During the daytime, these animals prefer to hide in various shelters or in a nest, but even at night, common hedgehogs do not like to be outside their home for a long period of time.
The hedgehog's nest is difficult to find. Indeed, an ordinary hedgehog chooses the most secluded places for its construction: tree roots, abandoned holes of rodents, caves, pits, etc. the diameter of the nest, as a rule, varies from fifteen to twenty centimeters. The hedgehogs spread the inner surface of the nest with moss, dry leaves or grass, which form the litter.
Males of common hedgehogs are aggressive in nature. Only in relation to each other. Males guard their territories very zealously, and the size of such areas in males ranges from seven to thirty-nine hectares, in females - in the range from six to ten hectares.
The needles of common hedgehogs change quickly. On the contrary, molt in these animals is an extremely slow phenomenon. Molting usually occurs either in autumn or spring. Surprisingly, during the year, in common hedgehogs, only one needle out of three changes, and the duration of growth of each needle varies from one to one and a half years.
Common hedgehogs are fast animals. For their size, it really is, because they are capable of speeds up to three meters per second. Plus, hedgehogs can jump and swim! When running, these animals step on the earth's surface with their entire feet.
Hedgehogs have good eyesight. On the contrary, hedgehogs don't see well. However, in this regard, they are not at all different from other nocturnal animals. Common hedgehogs have good hearing and a keen sense of smell.
Hedgehogs hibernate. For European hedgehogs, its duration is limited to the period from October to April, while these animals are taken into the hole and tightly close the entrance to it. The hibernation heart rate ranges from twenty to sixty beats per minute, and the body temperature is approximately 2 degrees Celsius. During the summer months, an ordinary hedgehog must store a large amount of fat - at least five hundred grams. If this does not happen, then during the cold winter months, the animal could starve to death. Even after the hedgehog has awakened from hibernation, he does not immediately leave his burrow - for a start, his body temperature must rise to at least fifteen degrees Celsius.
Common hedgehogs are solitary animals. Although hedgehogs settle in close proximity to each other, they lead a solitary lifestyle. That is why adults avoid close proximity to each other.
Common hedgehogs eat only food of animal origin. This is not the case, because ordinary hedgehogs are omnivorous animals. But they prefer just animal food - slugs, caterpillars, insects and even earthworms go to the basis of the diet of these animals. Not only amphibians and reptiles in a state of torpor, but also small vertebrates can become victims of common hedgehogs. The favorite delicacy of these animals are chicks or eggs of birds nesting on the earth's surface. From plant foods, common hedgehogs eat fruits and berries.
The onset of mating behavior in common hedgehogs occurs in the period following hibernation. At this time, fights often occur between males - they push, bite each other on the face and legs, and even use needles. The fight is accompanied by snorting and loud sniffing. The hedgehog that defeated the rival circles around the female for several hours, but after mating the individuals disperse. The female uses the once abandoned burrows of rodents or equips her own dwelling, the inner surface of which is covered with dry leaves and grass. During the year, the hedgehog brings only one brood, and the number of cubs in the litter varies from three to eight, but most often it is four hedgehogs. Hedgehogs are born completely helpless - they are blind and naked, and their body weight reaches only twelve grams. Hedgehogs are born with bright pink skin, which becomes covered with soft needles after a few hours; by the age of fifteen days the needle cover is already fully formed in the pups. Hedgehogs become independent about a month after birth, puberty occurs ten to twelve months after birth.
Common hedgehogs are beneficial. They destroy harmful insects. These are, for example, hairy ground beetles, May beetles, etc. However, hedgehogs can also be harmful. Firstly, their diet includes eggs of small birds nesting directly on the earth's surface (for example, lapwing, snipe, etc.), adults can even plunder the clutches of ordinary chickens, causing damage to the human economy. Secondly, common hedgehogs can carry various diseases. These include, for example, salmonellosis, rabies, yellow fever, and ringworm. Hedgehogs that live in forest lands become targets for encephalitis ticks. The point is in the needle cover of these animals, which, like a brush, brushes off ticks from the grass; moreover, hedgehogs cannot get rid of the ticks that have climbed between the needles.
Hedgehogs are susceptible to poison. Many poisons act surprisingly weakly on these animals. Hedgehogs are quite resistant to opium, arsenic and even viper venom and hydrocyanic acid. Ordinary hedgehogs do not attack vipers in nature.
Hedgehogs can behave rather strangely. For example, this concerns their meeting with an object giving off a strong smell. Hedgehogs begin to lick this object and do this until frothy saliva begins to stand out. The hedgehog transfers this saliva to the needles - this procedure is called "self-lubrication". There are cases when adults of hedgehogs stick cigarettes on the needles, even if they are not smoked. Why hedgehogs act in this way is not clear, but there is a version that in this way animals are trying to fight parasites.
Hedgehogs are often found in gardens. Especially in those gardens that are located near forests. In the gardens, hedgehogs seek refuge for themselves, which become secluded places overgrown with rosehips, hedges, etc.
Hedgehogs steal apples. This is a myth that was born thanks to children's books. After all, how many pictures there are, which depict a hedgehog carrying one or more apples on needles. However, this fact does not correspond to reality, if only because the hedgehog does not prepare food for the winter. Biologists say that hedgehogs don't need these fruits.
The hedgehog family includes nineteen species of hedgehogs. An interesting fact is that four types of hedgehogs do not have needles. Their appearance is similar to that of mouse-like rodents. These hedgehogs live in warm regions. They breed all year round and do not hibernate.
The long-eared hedgehog has large ears. Big and long. On the abdomen, sides and muzzle, eared hedgehogs have soft short hair. Individuals of this species live in semi-deserts and deserts, in the steppes and even in the mountains. Apparently, the habitat conditions caused the needles of these hedgehogs to be relatively light. In the mountains, eared hedgehogs are found at an altitude of up to 2500 meters above sea level.
A bald hedgehog looks like an eared hedgehog. He also has large ears, and the abdomen is also endowed with soft fur. One of the distinguishing features of the bald hedgehog is its darker coloration. Individuals of this species have a longitudinal stripe on the crown, the skin of which is devoid of needles and hair. The bald hedgehog lives in clay and sandy places.
Hedgehogs are born without needles. But they appear within a few hours after birth - in the beginning they are soft, over time the needles become harder and harder.
Hedgehogs have poor eyesight. In the world around him, hedgehogs are mainly oriented with the help of a keen sense of smell and very sensitive hearing.
There are no hedgehogs without needles. There are some more! With a long tail and hair of varying degrees of hardness. Such hedgehogs are called hairy or rat hedgehogs. Another thing is that we are not very used to them, since they are found in China and the area of the Malay Archipelago.
There are four types of hedgehogs on the territory of the CIS, most often you can see the common hedgehog (the second name is the European hedgehog). The other three species are the Daurian hedgehog, the eared hedgehog, the bald hedgehog (or dark-spined hedgehog). The Daurian hedgehog is an endangered species, which is the reason for its inclusion in the Red Book lists, representatives of this species are found in the Trans-Baikal steppes. Daurian hedgehogs use the burrows of marmots and ground squirrels for shelter. These hedgehogs go hunting before dark.