Porcupines are a cute prickly bunch! At first glance, all porcupine species look alike. But they are quite different.
Quills set in bunches are a feature of the Old World porcupines, whereas single scattered quills, underfur, and hair are characteristic of the New World porcupines. Their base coloration varies from greyish brown through dark brown to blackish, but this colouring is covered by part-coloured patterns of white, yellow, orange, or black due to bands on the spines. Cute and colourful, is that all you should know about these intriguing animals! Definitely not!
Are you eager to learn more? Here are some interesting facts about porcupines that’ll help you in your quest for knowledge!
The porcupine Latin name means “quill pig”. It’s the prickliest of rodents.
The derivation of the word “porcupine” can be traced back to Old English and French. It’s a derivative of the Middle French word “porc d’espine”, meaning “thorny pig.” While Middle English alternatives include “porcupyne” and “porcapyne.”
Porcupines boast of a coat of needle-like quills, giving predators a snappy reminder that this animal is no easy meal.
Porcupines are divided into two groups: Old World porcupines, found in Africa, Europe, and Asia, and New World porcupines, found in North, Central, and South America.
The only species found in the United States and Canada is the North American porcupine.
They’ve got soft hair, only their back, sides, and tail are usually mixed with sharp quills.
These quills usually lie flat until a porcupine is in danger when they come to attention as a persuasive warning.
Some quills are nearly a foot long, like those of Africa’s crested porcupine.
It once was though that porcupines could shoot quills at predators, the truth is of course, they can’t, but their quills can easily be detached.
Many animals after a porcupine encounter come out with quills stuck on their snouts or bodies.
It’s difficult to remove quills once they are stuck in another animal’s skin because of their sharp tips and overlapping scales or barbs.
Porcupines grow new quills to substitute the ones they lose.
A porcupines’ attack will not lead to infection because each quill has a topical antibiotic. This is very unusual having in mind that they use their quills as their only defence mechanism. It’s probably a way to prevent infection from accidental self-quilling.
North and South America’s porcupines are good climbers and spend much of their time in trees. Some even have gripping tails to assist them in climbing.
A single porcupine may have 30,000 or more quills.
North American porcupines satisfy their healthy appetite for wood with their large front teeth.
They eat natural bark and stems and even chew on canoe paddles. The North American porcupines also eat fruit, leaves, and springtime blossoms.
Porcupines that live on the ground and inhabit deserts, grasslands, and forests are the ones in Africa, Europe, and Asia.
Depending on the species female porcupines have between one and four offspring.
At first, babies have soft quills but they harden within a few days.
At about two months of age, most young porcupines are ready to live on their own.
There are 29 species of porcupine worldwide.
The largest porcupine, the North African crested porcupine, grows up to 36 inches (90 centimetres).
The smallest, the Bahia hairy dwarf porcupine, grows up to 15 inches (38 cm) long.
Depending on species porcupines weigh 2.5 to 77 lbs. (1.2 to 35 kilograms), and their tails can grow up to 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 cm).
The length of quills varies by type. Porcupines with short quills around 4 inches (10 cm) long belong to the New World, while porcupines with quills that can grow up to 20 inches (51 cm) long, though there are some exceptions, belong to the Old World.
Porcupines can live in any terrain, including deserts, grasslands, mountains, rainforests, and forests. Tree branches’ holes, tangles of roots, rock crevices, brush, or logs are the porcupine’s home.
Porcupines are active during the night and sleep during the day. During the night, they forage for food, therefore they’re nocturnal animals.
New World porcupines pass their time in trees, while the Old World ones prefer the ground.
Porcupines aren’t social animals. They’re typically solitary, though New World porcupines may pair up. A mother and her young are a family group called a prickle.
Female porcupines carry their young for a gestation period of 16 to 31 weeks, depending on species.
Porcupettes (baby porcupines) are about 3 % of their mother’s weight at birth.
Depending on species baby porcupines mature at 9 months to 2.5 years, and can live up to 15 years in the wild.
New World porcupines are part of the Erethizontidae family, which has four types and 12 species. There are 11 species, in three types of Old World porcupines which are part of the Hystricidae family.
Porcupines are listed as least concern or vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The only porcupines listed as vulnerable are the Philippine porcupine and the bristle-spine porcupine.
Although there’s not enough data on some species there are currently no porcupine species listed as endangered.
Do you have any interesting or fun facts about porcupines that we’ve missed? Share them here in the comments section below!