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Hedgehog FAQ [3/7] - Intro to Hedgehogs as pets
Section - <4.1> Which types/colours are there? Male or female? What age?

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Top Document: Hedgehog FAQ [3/7] - Intro to Hedgehogs as pets
Previous Document: <3.9> Her-hog or Him-hog? What sex is Prickles?
Next Document: <4.2> How many should I get?
See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
What are referred to as African Pigmy hedgehogs that are available as pets,
throughout North America [3.1], and most of the world, are generally a blend
of a couple of species of hedgehogs: Four-toed or White-bellied hedgehogs
(Atelerix albiventris) and Algerian hedgehogs (A. algirus), though there has
been some speculation that that there is some Pruner's (Cape) hedgehog
(A. frontalis / A. pruneri) added as well.  My thanks to Sharon Massena, for
reminding me that most of our pet hedgies are actually hybrid varieties, and
again to Nigel Reeve for helping straighten the whole mess out.  This is not
necessarily the case elsewhere, such as in Europe, however, even with African
pigmy type hedgehogs.  In addition, Egyptian (? long-eared) hedgehogs, are
kept as pets in some places.

Of these, the first group are similar in appearance and temperament.  These
tend to be very well behaved, and will rarely, if ever, nip an owner, but
like with any animal, given the right (or wrong) circumstances, it can happen
(see [6.6] for advice on biting).

Four-toed or white-bellied, and Algerian hedgehogs tend to have a whitish or
light coloured face, while Pruner's hedgehogs have a darker or masked face.
The real difference, though is in the number of toes on the hind feet:
Pruner's and Algerian hedgehogs have five like most hedgehogs, while the
White-Bellied hedgehog is also known as the Four-toed hedgehog for obvious
reasons (but only the hind feet).

Egyptian or long-eared hedgehogs (the ears being the most obvious
differentiating factor) are, however, known for having a somewhat more
aggressive personality, and will frequently nip or bite, as suggested here by
Nathan Tenny:

    [Cerebus] (one of Nathan's former troupe -- ed.) is an Egyptian hedgehog 
    (_Hemiechinus auritus_).  The [care instructions in this FAQ also] 
    apply to him, but his personality is rather different.  There aren't 
    many on the market as yet, but they're distinguishable by their 
    loooong ears.  They are extremely cute animals, very active and 
    seemingly rather intelligent, but they *really* bite, and are not 
    recommended as cuddly pets!  We hand-raised Cerebus from a very young 
    age, playing with him a lot in hopes of making him comfortable with 
    us, but to no avail; as he's reached adulthood, being comfortable has 
    come to mean that he's not scared to bite us.  Oops.

This behaviour has been confirmed by Anja van der Werf, who has also pointed
out that in spite of this, they are generally more popular as pets in Europe
than are White-Bellied or Pruner's hedgehogs.

Regarding colour, most hedgehogs are covered with white and grey or brown
ticked quills, sometimes called salt and pepper coloured, or agouti (though
I'm told this term is now `out of favour' as it largely implies all such
`banded' appearing hedgehogs are the same, which is incorrect).

As colour research has progressed, one of the things that has come to light
is that there is no such thing as a `basic' hedgehog colour.  Each hedgehog
is a specific colour, even though many of the grey or brown ticked ones will
look `similar' to an observer who is unaware of the (sometimes subtle

Some of the more dramatic appearing colour variations are the ``snowflakes.''
These are often all white, or almost all white, but do not possess the albino
gene.  Albino hedgehogs also exist, and apparently the early problems with
them being unhealthy and not terribly robust, are now largely a thing of the
past (if, indeed, there ever were problems).

The list of known colours seems to be ever expanding with new variations
appearing every time I turn around.  For details on colours, see the Advanced
Topics part of the FAQ, in section [10.4].

As far as personality goes, it has historically been thought that females are
generally friendlier than males, and will become familiar with a new owner
more quickly.  This, however, appears to be primarily a result of how a lot
of breeders handle their animals -- males are usually not handled as much,
and hence are not as gentled down.  Properly handled when they are young,
there is little or no personality difference between sexes.  Being friendly
generally means their quills will be laid back smoother, and they will have
less of a tendency to roll into a ball.

Females tend to be more expensive, both because of their perceived
friendliness, and because of their ability to produce more hedgehogs.
Breeders usually keep a ratio of several females for each male, which makes
for a higher quantity of males available as pets, and hence another reason
for the usually cheaper selling price of males.  Males on the other hand, do
tend to self-anoint [7.1] more often than females, and this amazing feat of
dexterity is something not to be missed!

The unusual colour varieties, such as snowflakes, were originally considered
to be somewhat more high-strung in temperament than the more common salt and
pepper hedgehogs.  From what I have been able to determine, this is not
directly related to the colour, but is more a side-effect of the inbreeding
done to try and propagate the special colouring.  In any case, temperament is
going to depend largely on both the breeding, and on the type and amount of
handling, rather than the exact colouration.

It appears there is another way to create a different colour hedgehog ...
while not quite in the same genre as the colourations above, one of the
people I've been in touch with on the net (whose name I will withhold to
avoid potential embarrassment) passed along a story to me.  This kind hearted
hedgehog addict once fed her little herd of hedgies a treat of strained
carrots (baby food) one night along with their normal food.  The hedgehogs
seemed to find this new item interesting and proceeded to munch on it, then,
as hedgehogs will do, they all self-anointed.  My friend thought nothing of
it, other than that hedgehogs don't really like strained carrots.  In the
morning, however, when the light wasn't quite so dim, my friend (who is
probably a lifelong enemy by now) discovered an entire small herd of very
``orange'' hedgehogs!  There it is folks -- the latest in hedgehog fashion --
the Orange Hedgehog.  I have since learned from friends and relatives with
small children, that few things come close to strained carrots in staining
ability, so I can well imagine that the effect of this was pretty amazing.  I
know I'll probably be blacklisted for life for adding this, but it was much
too good to resist!  ;-)

To compound the trouble I've gotten into above, I have also heard of another
kind hearted hedgie addict who offered her hedgehogs a treat of raspberries.
Come morning, once she realized they weren't showing the results of a vicious
fight and that the `blood' was nothing more than two seriously
raspberry-anoited hedgies, it too, became time for a hogwash.  It seems you
can create an amazing variety of impromptu colours (and flavours) of
hedgehogs! ;-)

The best age to acquire a pet hedgehog is shortly after they have been weaned
(after about 6-8 weeks of age).  Hedgehogs are completely independent by this
stage, and adapt to new owners much more readily when young.  This doesn't
mean that an older hedgehog won't become used to you and friendly towards
you, it will just take a little longer and a little more patience.

User Contributions:

Report this comment as inappropriate
Apr 26, 2012 @ 10:22 pm
Hi, my hedgehog started running around her cage squealing so I took her out to see what was wrong. Her genital area was inflamed and she had open sores all around that area. I gave her a bath, but I'm really worried about her. Do you have any idea what this could be?
Thank you!

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic:


Top Document: Hedgehog FAQ [3/7] - Intro to Hedgehogs as pets
Previous Document: <3.9> Her-hog or Him-hog? What sex is Prickles?
Next Document: <4.2> How many should I get?

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