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Gymnures and Hedgehogs: Erinaceidae

Gymnures, Hedgehogs, And People

The most intense relationships between people and this family surround the hedgehogs. Gardeners often consider a hedgehog in the yard a helpful addition that will suppress insect and spider numbers. On the other hand, poultry farmers dislike hedgehogs, which are quite fond of eggs and will occasionally eat a chick.

Superstitions in some cultures view a hedgehog as a good omen, and some folk remedies call for the use of blood or some other part of a hedgehog. Historically, hedgehogs have also been killed for their meat, and for their spines to use to comb newly cut sheep wool.


A particularly odd behavior among the hedgehogs—and one that is still not fully understood—is called "self-anointing." It happens when a hedgehog comes across a powerful odor. The animal stops what it is doing, and begins licking and sometimes even chewing the source of the odor until it starts to foam at the mouth. Next, it smears the foam over its body spines with small backward jerks of its head and flicks of its tongue. Although many people have seen hedgehogs perform this ritual, scientists still are not sure exactly why animals do it.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsGymnures and Hedgehogs: Erinaceidae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Gymnures, Hedgehogs, And People, Conservation Status, Western European Hedgehog (erinaceus Europaeus): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET