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Welcome to the animal kingdom!

The four-toed hedgehog (Atelerix albiventris), African pygmy hedgehog

Фото African pygmy hedgehog
Фото African pygmy hedgehog

The four-toed hedgehog (Atelerix albiventris), also known as the African pygmy hedgehog, is a species of hedgehog found throughout much of central and eastern Africa.


Atelerix albiventris is a species of erinaceomorphic mammal of the family Erinaceidae.

The African pygmy hedgehog is common in Africa (southern Mauritania, Senegal, Ethiopia, Somalia, Tanzania). It inhabits different habitats: deserts, tropical savannahs, steppes, farmland and climbs up to 1,500 metres in the mountains. This small animal prefers low bushes and stony areas, but avoids forests.

Description and characteristics

The African pygmy hedgehog has a long snout, round dark eyes and oval ears. Its fur is soft and short and grows on the forehead, cheeks and abdomen. The limbs and tail of the African pygmy hedgehog are short. This small animal has a body length of 15 to 25 cm and a tail of 1 to 4 cm. It weighs between 350 and 700 g, and females are slightly larger than males. The African pygmy hedgehog has five toes on the front legs and four on the hind legs.

Short (2-3 cm) needles completely cover its back, sides and top of the head. The colour of the needles is white-brown or white-black. The fur on the cheeks and abdomen of the African pygmy hedgehog is light, sometimes almost white, and the ears are brown. In the wild, the animal usually lives 3 to 4 years, in captivity up to 10 years, but usually up to 6 years.

The African pygmy hedgehog emits a wide variety of sounds: snorts and grunts when its territory is invaded by another animal; squeaks during a fight; screams when frightened or injured. The prickly hedgehog has enemies, being hunted by some predators, such as jackals, wild dogs, badgers and large birds (owls). Like all hedgehogs, it curls into a ball when in danger.

Nutrition and lifestyle

The African pygmy hedgehog is omnivorous and voracious - it can eat up to 1/3 of its own weight at night. It feeds mainly on insects and invertebrates (worms, snails, slugs), but also on small vertebrates, carrion, eggs and chicks, small amphibians and reptiles, fruits, mushrooms, seeds and plant roots.

Like other hedgehogs, the African pygmy hedgehog is resistant to many toxins and poisons, so it can eat scorpions and small venomous snakes. The African pygmy hedgehog has acute hearing and smell, and can detect prey underground to a depth of 5 cm, but has poor eyesight.

African pygmy hedgehogs are solitary and active at night. They burrow under branch piles, among stones, under tree roots, in undergrowth, in abandoned termite or rodent burrows. The African Pygmy Hedgehog often has a chaotic gait, but it runs quite fast and climbs quite well. During heat waves, the African pygmy hedgehog goes into summer hibernation, which lasts from June to September.

Reproduction and social behaviour

The breeding season of the African pygmy hedgehog is from October to March. The male's individual patch is 200-300 m in diameter. When the hedgehogs meet, the male walks around the female for hours, chirping, grunting and snorting. At first, the female ignores the male's advances by snorting, fleeing or curling up. When the female is ready to mate, she extends her hind legs and lowers her needles.

During coitus, the male leaves a wax plug in the female's vagina that prevents her from mating with other males. After mating, the hedgehogs disperse.

Females produce 1-2 litters per year. Pregnancy in the African pygmy hedgehog lasts 34-39 days. The hedgehog gives birth to 1 to 7 (on average 3-4) blind pups weighing about 10g.

Within two hours, the pups develop soft white spines, and on the second or third day the darker coloured spines begin to grow.

The pups' eyes open on day 14-20.

The mother feeds her pups with milk for 30-35 days. At 4-5 weeks, the hedgehogs leave the nest for the first time. At one month, they are able to curl up in a ball and at 6 weeks of age, the hedgehogs begin to lead an independent life.

They reach sexual maturity at about one year of age.

Lately, African pygmy hedgehogs have become a popular pet. Breeders have developed many colour varieties of African pygmy hedgehogs: cinnamon, chocolate, salt and pepper, etc.

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