Last Updated on February 9, 2014.

  • 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.

Primary Defense

  • 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