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15 Best Interesting Hedgehog Facts

Learn everything about the CUTEST garden critters in Britain!

Beano Team
Last Updated:  February 21st 2023

Have you ever seen a hedgehog? Probably not often - they like to sleep during the day, and they're terribly shy. But if you're lucky enough to have spotted one, you'll know how darn cute they are! But there's a lot more to them than being adorable - do you know why they roll up into a ball, or what they're called in Japan? You're about to find out!

And do you love animal facts? We've got animal facts! Learn all about capybaras, gorillas and snow leopards!

1. They're nocturnal

This means they sleep during the day and come out at night time. So, if you see a hedgehog out and about during the day, it may be in distress and it's probably best to contact a wildlife centre or call the RSPCA/SSPCA to make sure they're is taken good care of!

2. They're called hedgehogs for a reason

Hedgehogs get their name because they love to burrow in hedgerows and bushes (hedge), and because they have pointed snouts and make snuffling and grunting noises (hog)!

3. They're lactose intolerant

A popular myth is that you should give hedgehogs milk. This isn't true - milk is actually bad for them because they can't digest it properly. If you want to leave a drink out for thirsty hedgehogs (which is a great idea in very hot weather) water is just fine!

4. They love to hibernate

Hedgehogs are one of only three animals in the UK that have the ability to hibernate – which is, they go into a dormant state in the winter. They do this in October/November to around March/April, and they like to sleep in log piles, leaf piles, compost heaps, and underneath garden sheds. Hibernation isn't really sleep, not in the same way humans sleep – it's actually entering a state called 'torpor', where the hibernating animal reduces its body temperature and processes so they can save energy. Hibernating animals usually eat a lot before they hibernate, so leaving food out for hedgehogs in September and early October is a good idea! They love meaty dog or cat food, and some shops even sell special hedgehog food.

5. You should check leaf piles before Bonfire Night

Hedgehogs love to bed down in heaps of logs and leaves - and if you've ever made a bonfire for Guy Fawkes Night, you'll see why this could be dangerous! Before you light a bonfire always check in case there's a sleepy 'hog in there!

6. They weren't always called "hedgehogs"

An older English word for hedgehog is 'urchin'. You've probably heard about sea urchins, which are spiky creatures often seen in rock pools. Their original name meant 'hedgehog of the sea'! Lots of European languages use the same word for 'urchin' as they do for 'hedgehog'.

7. They live in a lot of places

Hedgehogs are one of the most iconic animals of the British countryside, but they actually live in a wide variety of places! There are 15 different species of hedgehog and they can be found across Europe, Asia and Africa! There are no species native to the Americas or Australia, but hedgehogs have been introduced to New Zealand.

8. They have a special trick!

Hedgehogs are actually immune to many types of poisonous plant, and they've developed this into a special defence mechanism! They eat the plants and then make a frothy saliva int heir mouths (gross!), which they then lick all over their spines to hide their scent from predators and possibly to give them a nasty surprise if they try to eat the hedgehog!

9. They don't use their eyes to hunt

Hedgehogs love to eat insects and other invertebrates, including slugs, caterpillars, worms and beetles. Hedgehogs use their noses and ears to find these tasty treats, as their eyesight isn't as good as their sense of smell. If you ever see a 'hog snuffling around the ground at night, it's hunting!

10. Their self-protection is very clever

Hedgehogs famously like to roll up in a ball when they're threatened. This is because their tummies aren't very well protected, unlike their spiky backs. Rolling up in a ball is the best way to stop predators from attacking!

11. They like to live alone

Hedgehogs are solitary animals, which means they prefer to be alone most of the time, except when mating or when raising babies (and btw, baby hedgehogs are called 'hoglets'). If you ever see a group of hedgehogs together, it's called an 'array'!

12. They're a gardener's best friend

Hedgehogs are a great help to gardeners because they eat up all the garden pests that like to nibble on plants. They help to preserve fruits and vegetables growing in your garden!

13. Their international names are ADORABLE

The Japanese word for hedgehog is 'harinezumi', which means 'needle mouse'! The French word is 'hérisson', which is also the name of a town in Central France - and yes, its coat of arms is a hedgehog!

14. A man tried to sell hedgehog crisps

In some cultures hedgehogs were eaten as food and believed them to contain cures for various illnesses. In 1981, a British pub owner tried to sell Hedgehog Flavoured Crisps. He legally had to change the name to "Hedgehog Flavour Crisps" because the crisps contained no actual hedgehog, just pork and herbs (thank goodness)! In fact, the company that made the crisps actually donated a lot of money to Tiggywinkles, a hedgehog welfare charity!

15. Humans are one of their biggest threats

Cars pose a huge threat to hedgehogs, and many are killed while trying to cross the road. Another danger is litter – hedgehogs are in serious danger of getting their heads or legs stuck in cans, bottles and bits of plastic. You can combat this by always taking your litter with you until you can safely put it in a bin, and picking up bits of litter you see in the countryside.