Last Updated on September 6, 2013.

 History in the United States

  • The first recorded hedgehog in the United States was a female European hedgehog displayed at the New York Zoological Society in 1900.
  • In 1946, the New York Zoo imported a long-eared hedgehog from Cyprus.
  • The African species are smaller than the European hedgehogs making them more suitable as pets. At one time they were not protected in their native environment, thus making them available for importation into the United States.
  • Most believe that the hedgehogs currently being bred in the United States, are descendants the 80,000 hedgehogs imported from Nigeria between 1991 and 1994. 
  • The two most commonly imported species were the Algerian and the Four Toed White Bellied (Atelerix albiventris).
  • Most of the pet hedgehogs available today are a hybrid of the White Bellied and Algerian hedgehogs and are commonly called African Pygmy Hedgehogs.
  • There is some terminology debate in the name African “pygmy” hedgehogs. The African species are really not “pygmy” hedgehogs, but they are significantly smaller than their European cousins.
  • European and other species are NOT found as pets in the United States.
  • The original hedgehog imports were all the “standard” color, but through selective breeding a wide variety of colors are now available.
  • It is unlikely that hedgehogs could survive in the wild in most parts of the United States. It is both cruel and illegal to release unwanted hedgehogs into the wild.
  • In 1992, the North American Hedgehog Association (NAHA) was founded as the first organization dedicated to hedgehogs as pets.

Current Importation and Exportation of Pets

  • The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) stopped the importation of hedgehogs in 1994 and the importation restriction lasted until the late summer of 2013.
  • The  newly imported hedgehogs of 2013 were captive bred in the Czech Republic and were introduced into some of the larger breeding herds.
  • Captive bred hedgehogs from the United States have been exported to European countries and Japan for the pet market in those countries.
  • Hedgehogs in the United States have been captive bred for many generations. Some refer to hedgehogs as “domesticated” exotics rather than “wild” exotics.
  • Wild hedgehogs are protected from exportation in most countries.


Primary Author: Gail Dick, Millermeade Farms

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