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hedgehog

hedgehog, Old World insectivorous mammal of the family Erinaceidae.

The spiny hedgehogs are found in Africa and Eurasia, except SE Asia. They have rounded bodies up to 13 in. (33 cm) long, very short tails, and pointed snouts; their backs and sides are covered with stiff spines and their undersides with coarse hair. They are usually brown and yellow in color. When frightened, a hedgehog rolls itself into a tight ball with its spines pointing outward; when rolled up it is invulnerable to almost any predator.

The European hedgehog, Erinaceus europaeus, is about 9 in. (23 cm) long, with small ears. It is strictly nocturnal, spending the day in a burrow in the undergrowth; it hibernates in midwinter. The name hedgehog describes the tendency of these animals to make their burrows in the hedgerows that surround English fields.

Hedgehogs are not related to hogs, but they root in the ground for food in the manner of hogs. Their diet consists of small animals, including worms, insects, frogs, mice, and even poisonous snakes; they have a high level of immunity to viper venom. A hedgehog will bite a snake and then roll itself up as the snake strikes, repeating this procedure until the snake is dead.

E. europaeus is found throughout Europe and N Asia, as far north as the limits of the deciduous forest. Other spiny hedgehog species are found in Africa and Asia; many are desert dwellers. Some are wholly nocturnal and others only partially so; all either hibernate or aestivate and tend to hole up during dry weather. Some species have large pointed ears like those of dogs.

The hairy hedgehogs, or gymnures, are found instead of spiny hedgehogs in SE Asia. They resemble long-snouted rats and have coarse bristles but no spines. They give off a distinctive musky odor, produced by anal glands. The largest of the gymnures is the moon rat, Echinosorex gymnurus, with a 15-in. long (38-cm) body and an 8-in. (20-cm) tail.

There are no New World hedgehogs, although the North American porcupine, which is not an insectivore but a rodent, is sometimes erroneously called a hedgehog. The spines of hedgehogs differ from those of porcupines; they are not barbed and do not pull out of the animal's skin easily.

Both spiny and hairy hedgehogs are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Erinaceomorpha, family Erinaceidae.

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"hedgehog." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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hedgehog

hedge·hog / ˈhejˌhôg; ˈhejˌhäg/ • n. a nocturnal insectivorous Old World mammal (family Erinaceidae) with a spiny coat and short legs, able to roll itself into a ball for defense. Its several species include the common hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) of western and northern Europe. ∎  any other animal covered with spines, esp. a porcupine.

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"hedgehog." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"hedgehog." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/hedgehog-1

"hedgehog." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved May 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/hedgehog-1

hedgehog

hedgehog Small, nocturnal Eurasian mammal of the family Erinaceidae. It has short, sharp spines above, lighter-coloured fur below, and a pointed snout. It feeds on insects and other small animals, and defends itself by rolling into a ball with the spines outermost. Species Erinaceus europaeus.

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"hedgehog." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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hedgehog

hedgehog in the Bestiaries it is said to gather fruit for its young by impalement on its spines; it may thus be taken to exemplify prudence, or as an image of the Devil harvesting unwary souls.

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"hedgehog." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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hedgehog

hedgehog See ERINACEOIDEA.

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"hedgehog." A Dictionary of Zoology. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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hedgehog

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"hedgehog." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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