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The Story Of Wild Animals:
 Story Of The Llama

 Story Of The Carpincho

 Story Of The Ant-eater

 Story Of The Ostrich

 Story Of The Lizard

 Story Of The Kangaroo

 Story Of The Hedgehog.

 Story Of The Wild Goat

 Story Of The Musquash

 Story Of The Wart-hog

 Read More Articles About: The Story Of Wild Animals

Story Of The Hedgehog

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

School children in England become familiar with a strange little animal that is rarely seen in this country, although it inhabits parts of Africa and Asia. It is the hedgehog, or urchin, which is guarded with spikes. These spikes are fixed into the skin in a very beautiful and simple manner. When the hedgehog is annoyed it rolls itself up, and the tightness of the skin causes all its spines to) stand firm and erect, bidding defiance to an unprotected hand. While rolled up, even the dog and the fox are baffled by it; but their ingeuity enables them to overcome the difficulty by rolling it along until they push it into a puddle or pool, when the astonished hedgehog immediately unrolls itself to see what is the matter, and before it can close itself again is seized by its crafty enemy.

Many more fortunate animals have outlived the aspersions cast upon their character by ignorant persons, but the prejudice against the hedgehog is still in full vigor in the agricultural districts. Scarcely a farmer or a laborer will be persuaded that the hedgehog does not suck the cows. Now this is an impossibility for the hedgehog. The food of the hedgehog consists not of cow's milk, but insects, frogs, mice and snakes. I once placed a snake in the same box with a hedgehog. The hedgehog gave the snake a severe bite, and then rolled itself up), this process being repeated until the spine of the snake was broken in several places ; it then began at the tail, and ate the snake gradually, as one would eat a radish.

The hedgehog also feeds on earthworms, slugs and snails, and in destroying the latter it may certainly be regarded as a friend to the gardener. The consumption of earthworms is performed in a rather curious manner. These animals are seized when they are enjoying the damp freshness of the air out of their holes, in summer evenings, and slowly passed into the mouth of their enemy from one end to the other, apparently by the simple process of mastication with the molar teeth, the unconsumed portion of the worm being constantly transferred from one side of the mouth to the other, so that both sides of the jaw may come into play. This must be an unpleasant operation for the worm, much as its captor may enjoy it. It is uncertain whether the larger snails are eaten by the hedgehog, but the smaller species certainly form a portion of its diet.

The new-born young are almost naked, and their imperfect spines are soft, flexible and white, although rapidly hardening in the course of a few days. They are at first totally blind, and quite incapable of rolling themselves up. The nest in which the young are born is carefully constructed, and is said to be always protected from rain by an efficient roof. In winter the European hedgehog hibernates completely, laying up no store of food, but retiring to a nest of moss and leaves, where, rolled up in a ball, it lies torpid till awakened by the returning warmth of spring.

The flesh of the hedgehog is said to be good eating, and the Gypsies frequently make it a part of their diet, as do the people in some parts of the continent.

There is a peculiar method of preparing the animal for food, strongly re-minding one of the earth ovens used by the Polynesians. The hedgehog is simply wrapped up in, a mass of clay and put on the fire. In process of time the clay is thoroughly baked, and cracks open, when the hedgehog is supposed to be cooked. On opening the clay, the skin comes off with it, while the in-sides of the animal have formed themselves into a hard ball, and are taken out entire. By this method of cooking the juices are retained, and not suffered to dissipate, as they would if it were roasted.

The common hedgehog is characterized by the short and almost imperceptible neck, the pig-like snout, from which it derives its popular name, and also by the shortness of its limbs. Exclusive of the short naked tail, which measures about one and one-half inches, an average-sized hedgehog is about ten inches in length. The great peculiarity of all the hedgehogs is the power they possess of rolling themselves up into a ball-like form, presenting an array of spines, impenetrable to the great majority of other animals. This rolling-up process is effected by the aid of an extraordinary development of a layer of muscles found beneath the skin. When rolled up, the head and feet are tucked inwards, so that only the spines are exposed ; and it requires a bold dog or fox to attack a hedgehog when in this condition. Under the micro-scope the spine is seen to be marked by a number of parallel grooves.

Hedgehogs are represented by five distinct varieties in India. It is remarkable that while one of these hedgehogs is found in Madras, no representative is recorded from the Central Provinces and Bengal, the other species not occurring till we reach the North-West Provinces, the Punjab, etc. But little is known of the habits of these Indian species, and nothing as to their breeding; although it is probable that in both these respects they conform closely to their European cousin. The long-eared Afghan hedgehog common in the neighborhood of Kandahar and Quetta, hibernates, but the species from the Punjab and Southern India are active at all seasons of the year, thus showing how absolutely dependent is the habit of hibernation upon climate. The collared hedgehog found in the plains of North-Western India, inhabits sandy country, hiding in holes beneath thorny bushes or in tufts of grass during the day, feeding chiefly on insects, especially a species of Blaps, and also on lizards and snails. It makes a grunting noise when irritated, and when touched suddenly jerks up its back so as to throw its spines forward, making at the same time a sound like a puff from a pair of bellows. The Afghan hedgehog feeds on the slugs and snails so, common in the fields around Kandahar, as well as worms, insects and lizards. It hides during the day in holes; and hibernates from the end of October or beginning of November till February.

Young hedgehogs are pretty little creatures. The mother generally produces from four to six at a birth. In color, they are, at first, a rose-white. When they get to be the size of a hen's egg, their prickles are well developed. The mother nurses them for a short time only, and then leaves them to shift for themselves, which they are well able to do.

Hedgehogs are particularly fond of cockroaches, and people in England often keep them in the kitchen to destroy these pests.

I once saw a hedgehog roll itself into, a ball and drop a distance of four-teen feet into an area way without doing itself the least damage. This gives a very good idea of the strength of the prickles in its skin.

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