Quills, Spines & Fur
- The most unique and obvious physical characteristic of hedgehogs is their quills.
- The weight of the spines accounts for approximately 35% of the hedgehog’s weight. (Miller)
Spines Versus Quills
- Most breeders and enthusiasts alternate between using “spines” and “quills” which is often confusing.
- Hedgehogs technically have quills, which are modified hairs that form a spine.
- All quills are spines but not all spines are quills. For example, a lizard can have spines but they are not made out of hair. Instead, they are made out of scales.
- Hedgehogs cannot shoot quills or detached quills by shaking or huffing their bodies.
- They do NOT have barbs on the end, as do porcupine quills that can stick in your skin.
- Hedgehogs use their spines as their main line of defense by erecting them so they crisscross and point in different directions protecting the skin and body.
- Hedgehogs have an orbicularis muscle, that it contracts like a drawstring, when it rolled into a ball.
- The hedgehog hides it’s head and legs by creating a ball and using it’s spines as protection.
- Hedgehogs can puff and pop. If an individual spine pokes you it can be painful.
- Proper handling techniques allow the hedgehog to become relaxed and handled comfortably.
- It’s spines will lie flat, toward the tail, when relaxed and the spines will feel relatively smooth, when petted from front to back.
- Hedgehogs have soft, white fur on their face and bellies.
- They typically keep their fur clean and neat. A healthy hedgehog should have no mats or caking of its fur.
Author: Gail Dick, Millermeade Farm’s Critter Connection