Body Language

Jun 28, 2013 by

Body Language
  • Body language and facial expression are both common forms of communication in both humans and animals.
  • One can tell many things about a hedgehog just by paying attention to their body and spine language.

Spines

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  • The most obvious and famous form of hedgehog’s body language is the use of its spines.
  • When the spines are up, the hedgehog is most likely reacting defensively, or showing a sign of irritation.
  • When the spines are down, the hedgehog is relaxed and comfortable in it’s surroundings.
  • A Hedgehog raising and lowering their spines is the equivalent of a human smile and frown.
  • When your hedgehog is scared, angry, or upset, it generally does not want you to touch it.
  • The goal is to help your hedgehog relax and become comfortable, so that it can be handled more easily.

Flat Spines

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  • Once your pet hedgehog gets to know and trust you, it will keep its spines flat while you are caressing it.
  • It might take a while longer for it to stop raising its forehead spines or “eyebrows”.

Forehead Spines or Eyebrows

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  • Humans and hedgehogs alike can use their eyebrows to communicate.
  • Typically, when your hedgehog’s eyebrows are pulled down and are covering its eyes or face it is trying to communicate, hide, or protect itself.
  • This can mean the hedgehog is:
    • angry or irritated
    • wary or uncertain
    • scared or defensive
  • Hedgehogs may also raise their forehead spines if you are petting or massaging it too close to its face.
  • Young hedgehogs have a tendency to keep their forehead spines raised as a sign to the other hedgehogs.
  • A good rule of thumb – “If you can’t see its face, give it some space!”
  • Examples:
    • Our youngest daughter has what we call “Angry Eyebrows”. There is no doubt when she is upset and would prefer to be left alone. Her “Angry Eyebrows” are typically a precursor for a temper tantrum.
    • Parents or teachers are often known to give children a “look” with their eyebrows that is intended to communicate, “Stop what you are doing” or “Change your behavior.”

Face

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  • A curious hedgehog will have it’s head visible and it’s nose may be twitching.  Its spines might be up or down, but its eyes will be clearly observable and it will be looking around.
  • Should something startle your hedgehog, such as a sudden movement or noise, your hedgehog may quickly pull its forehead spines or “eyebrows” down over it’s face for protection.

Forehead Furrow

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  • Hedgehogs have a natural part or furrow of skin on their forehead that is void of spines.
  • A hedgehog needs this furrow to pull its eyebrows over its face for protection.
  • You can only find your hedgehog’s forehead furrow when it is completely relaxed. This is a very good thing!

Tail

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  • The most common reason a hedgehog will stick its rear and tail out is because it has to poop. Get ready to clean up a mess or hold it over something!
  • Females ready to breed may also stick out their tail and display herself for the male.

Balling Up

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  • Please see our Balling Up article for more detailed information about a hedgehog’s first line of defense, balling up as a shock absorber, and unfortunate cruelty when a hedgehog is balled up. 

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