I have a new dead hedgehog...

On the way out last night (happy birthday Dad!) we drove past a dead hedgehog at the side of the road. A not uncommon sight, I'm sorry to say. The good news is that the body was still there today, so - naturally - I went and collected it. So, finally, I have a whole, intact hedgehog in my collection. I'll have more news on its development into a skeletonised study specimen in months to come...


As you can see, this individual was HUGE (though not the largest hedgehog I've ever seen).

For previous Tet Zoo articles on dead bodies and what to do with them, see...

Finally, La Roux's album is out. It's soooo good.

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In The Northeast USA we use the term Hedge Hog, Ground hog. i know it`s not he same as the European Hedge Hog but we have our share of road kills along our highways and parkways.Every once in a while a Huge Ground hog saunters thru my backyard.

By Bob Michaels (not verified) on 05 Jul 2009 #permalink

Poor hog. I handled some hedgehogs while on work experience and they are amusing chaps.
Is it swelled up from gas? Will you preserve the skin as well as the skeleton ?

I'm from the mid-Atlantic USA, now live in southern California, and have never heard anyone refer to a groundhog (i.e., Marmota monax, a.k.a. woodchuck) as a "hedgehog". Interesting regional difference. To me those are quite different taxa. (In fact, since they are rodents, groundhogs are closer to us than they are to hedgehogs, i.e., erinaceid lipotyphlan laurasiatheres.) And if there are any North American animals reminiscent of hedgehogs, they're porcupines, not groundhogs.

Hedgehogs don't live in the Americas, and it always seemed weird to me that they would be common somewhere. I don't know why ... but maybe people on the other side of the pond feel the same way about some of our critters (groundhogs, perhaps?).

When we were in Pembrokeshire we walked past a fresh dead badger that seem intact, and me a Richard both remarked on what probably would have happened if you were there!

I spotted my first wild hedgehog a few weeks ago in Switzerland. My hosts were very amused that I was so excited about it. I find it curious that a reference to swine crops in the English common names for both hedgehogs and porcupines--is this merely coincidence or is there some history of etymological confusion here?

My bad .Woodchucks = GroundHog not HedgeHog.

By Bob Michaels (not verified) on 05 Jul 2009 #permalink


Would you like the next intact roadkill echidna we see posted to you? I could put it on an ants nest first, but wouldn't be able to reassemble the skeleton ... and what about the spines?

Wombats are too huge to consider.

I've also never heard of a ground hog being called a hedgehog but there's a lot of regional variation in the name. Up here in Maine we call them woodchucks (as in how much wood could a woodchuck chuck).

I didn't know hedgehogs could grow that large, but I've only seen the smaller ones people here keep as pets. Will you name your dead hedgehog Spiny Norman?

Darren, you must be the easiest person in the world to shop for. :-)

BTW - I wonder why the only time I heard hedgehogs make any sort of sound was when they were mating?

So there is a grain of truth in this question how hedgehogs mate. ;)

Hedgehogs are actually very noisy animals, and I have frequently heard them long before seeing them. While foraging, they huff and puff, and sniff noisily, plus they are clumsy and crash around among the leaf litter and vegetation.

Oh yeah... DaveB (comment 7), I would LOVE echidna material, if - that is - you're able to send it. Email me and I'll send you my mailing address.

"but maybe people on the other side of the pond feel the same way about some of our critters"
Bears! Skunks! Bigfoot :P

Hedgehogs are actually very noisy animals, and I have frequently heard them long before seeing them. While foraging, they huff and puff, and sniff noisily, plus they are clumsy and crash around among the leaf litter and vegetation.

I suppose because they are difficult to prey upon, they don't have to worry about keeping quiet or moving gracefully? Skunks are somewhat similar in this regard. (Well, they move a bit awkwardly, anyway -- not that noisy I think.)

"I have a new dead hedgehog" is a sentence one is very unlikely to encounter anywhere but here.

By Sven DIMilo (not verified) on 06 Jul 2009 #permalink

Wow, that is one large hedgehog.

We've got one that often sleeps in a hoggy house down the end of our garden that we've named hogzilla on account of its size relative to the other neighbourhood hogs, but it's still not even close to the one you found.

Perhaps someday hedghogs will evolve a car avoidance strategy.

Bears! Skunks! Bigfoot :P

Bears aren't that common, generally. I've seen one in the wild my entire life. (Although that was indeed a species we have that is not in Europe, Ursus (Euarctos) americanus.)

Skunks are quite common around here (near Los Angeles). I just smelled one outside this morning. In the suburbs we also get a fair number of opossums, raccoons, and coyotes. (We even had a puma checking out swimming pools a bit north of us recently, but that's not very common.)

As for sasquatches, this country is lousy with them -- most of them are in politics.

On the size of the hedgehog in the photo, I cheated: the human hand is that of a 7-year-old, not an adult :)

Skunks aren't noisy? I have frequently been waken by them squabbling under the house, or dragging the catfood dishes around.

By Nathan Myers (not verified) on 06 Jul 2009 #permalink

... wakened ...

(The Englese, she is the very hard language to speak.)

By Nathan Myers (not verified) on 06 Jul 2009 #permalink

Paul (comment 16) said...

Perhaps someday hedghogs will evolve a car avoidance strategy.

Where do you think Sonic came from?

Seriously, it's my understanding that the creator of Sonic the hedgehog was inspired by an article in which the author proposed that hedgehogs might evolve longer legs and faster running abilities as selection pressure from cars weeded out slower individuals. This was a pretty popular idea (among lay-people, not among professional mammalogists) during the 1980s. Ah, those were the days.

A 7-year-old? Guess parents in the UK aren't as berserk with the "never touch a dead thing" advice as they are here...not that that ever stopped me.

In response to # 5, the OED does not give any Anglo-Saxon word for "hedgehog", though there must have been one. The word seems to have appeared in the 15th century so it was likely borrowed from French. The medieval French word for hedgehog was "herissson" (one who bristles) and the word for porcupine was "porc espin" (spiny hog), from medieval Italian "porcospino". Italy has both hedgehogs and porcupines. There are no porcupines in Britain, so the English knew of two French words for a small spiny animal, and it is likely they called the hedgehog a "hog" because they were influenced by "porc espin". It is generally assumed that "hedgehog" meant "hog that lives in hedges", which is plausible, but I wonder if this word could have meant "hog that looks like a spiny hedge" - very close to "porc espin".

By doyne dawson (not verified) on 06 Jul 2009 #permalink

Doyne, thanks for dropping some etymological knowledge. Alternatively, or additionally, I suppose the "hog" reference may pertain to the snorting, snuffling noises characteristic of hedgehogs alluded to earlier in the comments. The Anglo-Saxon word for "hedgehog" appears to have been "igil" quite similar to the German name "igel." "Igil" (and variants) appears to have also been applied to thistles on occasion--bringing us right back around to your final speculation....

Neil, Doyne-- OED was compiled by philologists who didn't know much zoology (the arts/sciences divide!), so speculations about origin of animal words may in some cases suffer...

In support of idea that snorting and snuffling might have influenced the use of "hog" in the name for Erinaceus: snorting and snuffling may have influenced at least one other zoonym: "porpoise," from some French dialect ultimately reflecting Latin Porcus piscis (pig fish). Choice of pig metaphor for these small cetaceans (by a number of European languages: F. "marsouin," etc, reflect Germmanic Meer and Suin) may have been partly because they are rotund and have lots of fat, but was also probably influenced by sound effects: Melville, in the "Cetology" chapter of "Moby Dick," reports that 19th C American whalement referred to them as "puffing pigs."

Bottom line: evidence that snuffling and snorting can get an animal called a pig.

By Allen Hazen (not verified) on 06 Jul 2009 #permalink

I agree with Allen: I don't think hedge 'hog' derives from non-English words for porcupine. Local English words for hedgehogs include hedgepig and fuzzypig (though hyeghoge was in use as early as the 15th century) and the 'pig' and 'hoge' most likely refer to its 'pig-like snout and accompanying grunts' (Freethy 1983, p. 37).

Hedgehogs also used to be called urchins in Britain (this is where sea urchin comes from): apparently, this derives from the French herichun. The Anglo-Saxon word was just Il, the dimunitive form of Igel (the current German word for the animal).

Ref - -

Freethy, R. 1983. Man & Beast: The Natural and Unnatural History of British Mammals. Blandford Press, Poole.

I'm pleased and proud to report that I've got at least two hedgehogs living down the bottom of my garden (Southampton GB) I heard them long before I saw them- shuffling around in the undergrowth just after dusk.

The second evening I popped down to have a look, one of them was making a noise like a steam engine (sex/foraging?) Amazing row - it's a good job they're well protected against predators, they certainly give themselves away.

Not sure I'd want a dead one though ... How's it get along with the swan's head ?

I have never actually seen a live hedgehog, so I actually consider them rather exotic. Converselyliving in Australia, kangaroos and koalas I generally consider relatively boring.

I have seen and felt one specimen where I do my volunteer work, The Nature Education center in Norwood, SA. I guess if I ever wanted to see one, I could stay in New Zealand for a month or so.

By Tim Morris (not verified) on 08 Jul 2009 #permalink

also, on the fake size issue, maybe you should call him "Spiny Norman"?

By Tim Morris (not verified) on 08 Jul 2009 #permalink

"I have a new dead hedgehog" is just waiting to become a folk song.

I too, have a new dead hedgehog, here in New Zealand.

He/she was "asleep" in the middle of the road one morning, and the neighbourhood kids were very interested, despite the occasional traffic.. so I picked it up with a spade and buried it in my garden.. Anyone want an undamaged clean hedgehog skeleton, please let me know in about three months.