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Old World Porcupines: Hystricidae

Indian Crested Porcupine (hystrix Indica): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: The Indian crested porcupine is known among the other Hystrix species for its ability to produce an especially loud rattle with its quills. It ranges in head-to-rump length from 27.6 to 35.4 inches (70 to 90 centimeters) and is the largest of the African porcupines, ranging from 24.3 to 39.7 pounds (11 to 18 kilograms). This species has a short, high head that features a prominent mane of quills on its head and neck that can be up to 16 inches (40 centimeters) long and which the animal can raise into a tall, threatening crest immediately. Its sides and back are covered with thick, cylindrical spines and its tail is layered with white, shorter quills. Each of the porcupine's feet is broad and has a thick, well-developed claw for digging burrows and finding food.

Geographic range: This porcupine is endemic throughout southwest and central Asia, including India, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, and in some parts of the Middle East, such as Iran, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.

An Indian crested porcupine with relaxed quills. The porcupine can quickly raise the quills on its head and neck into a tall crest when it's threatened. (© S. Nagendra/Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

Habitat: This species prefers to live on rock-strewn hillsides to as high as 7,875 feet (2,400 meters), but can adapt to just about any environment. They also make homes in scrublands where trees are sparse and in grasslands and forests. Like most of the porcupine species, the Indian crested shelters in caves, crevices, or burrows they or other animals have dug. When used for a period of time, their burrows become quite complex, with multiple entrances, chambers, and exits.

Diet: Like its cousins, the Indian crested porcupine eats human-grown crops of almost all kinds, in addition to wild vegetation, carrion, small bugs and mammals, and bones or antlers. Except when parents are teaching their young to forage, the search for food is usually solitary. They seems to prefer wandering along roads or tracks, and have been observed traveling more than nine miles in a single nighttime foraging trip.

Behavior and reproduction: Females of this species carry their young for an average of 112 days before giving birth, usually in February or March, in a grass-lined nest to a litter of one to four pups. Most females have only one litter per breeding season. Adults form monogamous (muh-NAH-guh-mus) pairs and both care for the young during the three-and-a-half–month nursing period. Up to fifteen members of a family group will share one burrow.

Indian crested porcupine and people: This porcupine species is hunted as a source of food in many cultures, and its voracious appetite for human-grown crops makes it a major threat to agriculture. Its extensive burrowing is damaging in gardens and other landscaped areas, and run-ins with the porcupines can cause serious illness and injuries to domestic animals and humans.

Conservation status: The Indian crested porcupine is common throughout its range. Its ability to adapt to multiple habitats and environmental changes make it a hardy species. Hunting of the creatures, however, has all but eliminated them from areas heavily populated by humans. ∎

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsOld World Porcupines: Hystricidae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Indian Crested Porcupine (hystrix Indica): Species Accounts, South African Porcupine (hystrix Africaeaustralis): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, O