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Do Hedgehogs Have Quills?

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Hedgehogs have become popular pets due to their small size and easy-going nature. Many new owners are eager to find out fun facts about hedgehogs before keeping one. The spiky skin of hedgehogs has intrigued many people, and they strive to find out more about these adorable creatures.

Do hedgehogs have quills?

Yes, the spiky covering on the back of a hedgehog is generally called ‘’spines’’ or ‘’quills’’. However, the quills of hedgehogs differ in nature and characteristics from those of other animals.

On average, a hedgehog has over 5,000 quills. These quills are about 1-inch long and made of keratin.

Four-toed Hedgehog, Atelerix albiventris, balled up in front of white background

Are hedgehog quills sharp?

Yes, hedgehogs have sharp and spiky quills that cover their back. The purpose of these quills is to protect these small animals from predators.

Whenever a hedgehog senses potential danger, it feels threatened. This reaction causes the quills to stand in an upright position and become more pointy. In this way, it becomes difficult for predators to hold the hedgehog.

Do hedgehog quills ever get soft?

Hedgehogs do not have quills at the time of birth. Instead, they have short and less sharp spines.

At the time of birth, these spines have a fluid-filled covering for protecting the mother. This covering shrinks and falls off within a day, and sharp spines begin to appear on the skin.

Do hedgehogs lose their quills?

Just like humans lose their hair, hedgehogs lose their quills!

Some hedgehogs will only lose their quills while quilling as a baby, while others may lose them all around the year.

Baby hedgehogs have shorter, duller spines. These spines begin to fall off and are replaced by numerous strong quills as the hedgehog matures. When the baby hedgehog turns around six to eight weeks, you will notice the quilling process beginning.

hand holding baby hedgehog pet

This process is uncomfortable for the young hedgehog because the smaller spines are being replaced with larger and stronger adult quills. Thus, the hedgehog may become irritable during this time.

This process proceeds gradually and may take a few weeks to more than two months, depending on the individual. The best example of this is the teething process in human babies.

The second phase of quilling begins after six months. It is much more painful for the hedgehog. Some hedgehogs will keep losing their quills throughout their lives. Every individual has their own mechanism, so we cannot specify a time for the quilling.

Quilling is a gradual process, meaning that the older quills will fall and get replaced by new ones. It is so slow that some owners might not even notice this process.

Thus, hedgehogs never get any bald patches, and the quills keep covering their backs. If you see any bald patches on your hedgehog, it is an abnormality, and you need to consult a vet as soon as possible.

Can hedgehogs shoot their quills?

Many people believe that we should not go near a hedgehog because they shoot their quills as soon as they see any predator.

However, this idea is completely false!

The quills are extremely hard and firmly attached to the hedgehog’s body. Even if the quills pierce through their enemy’s skin, they won’t come off.

Thus, no hedgehog can ever shoot its quills toward a predator.

girl holds cute hedgehog in her hands near her face

Can you hold a hedgehog despite the quills?

Yes, many people even keep them as pets, even though hedgehogs have sharp quills.

It is because the hedgehogs only raise their quills in an upright position when they sense any threat. When calm, the hedgehogs have their quills in a relaxed position. So, at this point, you can easily hold them.

Most hedgehog owners do not face difficulty while holding their hedgehogs because they are familiar with their owners and don’t get frightened in their presence. However, a hedgehog will definitely raise its quills when it sees you for the first time!

What are the differences between hedgehog quills and porcupine quills?

Many people argue that porcupines have quills while hedgehogs have spines. This never-ending controversy has confused many people about whether they should call the hair-like spikes of hedgehog quills or spines.

The reason lies in the fact that the thorny spikes of porcupines are called quills. Because the spikes of hedgehogs are somewhat different from the quills of porcupines, many people do not want to call them hedgehog quills.

Here are a few main differences between porcupine and hedgehog quills:

  • The quills of porcupines are longer than those of hedgehogs. Porcupines have quills that are 2-3 inches long. Some species might have one-foot-long quills. However, the quills of hedgehogs are only an inch long.
  • An average hedgehog will have around 5,000 quills. However, porcupines generally have 30,000 quills.
  • The quills of porcupines fall off easily. On the other hand, hedgehogs have strong quills that are deeply enrooted in the body. Thus, they do not fall, except for quilling.

How to hold a hedgehog with quills?

Holding a hedgehog with quills is not rocket science, and you don’t need a towel or gloves, except for when they are angry or frightened.

In the normal state, you will notice that the quills of a hedgehog are lying flat instead of standing in the upright position. In this state, you can easily hold it.

Sweet hedgehog in male hands

If you want to pet your hedgehog, make sure to pet them backwards, as the quills can hurt you if you do the opposite.

Do hedgehog’s quills need to be washed?

Although hedgehogs are smart and keep themselves clean, dirt and debris can get caught in their quills and make them look dirty. If you notice any dirt in your hedgehog’s quills, it’s time to wash them!

Place your hedgehog in a shallow bathtub with water and allow it to become calm. Once the hedgehog is ready, you can wash its quills gently.

Final words

All hedgehogs have quills. However, some people confuse them and call them spines.

Hedgehogs lose their quills several times a year in the quilling process, which are then replaced by new ones. The shedding time of older quills and replacement with new ones is different for every hedgehog.

Although hedgehogs have quills, they use them only for defense against predators. So, you can keep them as pets as long as they feel safe with you.