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Old World Porcupines: Hystricidae

Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Indian Crested Porcupine (hystrix Indica): Species Accounts, South African Porcupine (hystrix Africaeaustralis): Species AccountsGEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, O


Old World porcupines tend to live in the warmer habitats of southern Europe, many islands of the East Indies, across southern Asia (particularly India and the Malay Archipelago), and through all of Africa.

Old World porcupines generally like to live in deep burrows, which they often dig themselves or appropriate after the former occupants leave. However, they will also live in caves, rotting logs, nooks in rock walls, and hollow trees.

Mostly herbivores, plant eaters, Old World porcupines eat numerous kinds of plant material and human-cultivated crops. Some of their favorite foods are sweet potatoes, onions, bananas, grapes, corn, pineapple, cucumbers, and mangoes. They sometimes eat rotten meat (carrion) and chew up the bones as well, probably for calcium. They also chew on bark, branches, and tree trunks to keep their incisor teeth worn down to acceptable levels.

Porcupines are hunted in many countries for their meat, which is considered a delicacy, and for their quills, which many cultures use for decoration and religious symbols. Because of their fondness for human-grown crops, they are also hunted as a pest species. Often infested with fleas and ticks, porcupines carry the sometimes deadly bubonic (byoo-BON-ik) plague and rickettsiasis, a potentially serious bacterial infection.

Although many porcupine species are extremely adaptable to changing environmental conditions, some are threatened, according to the World Conservation Union (IUCN). The Malayan porcupine is listed as Vulnerable, facing a high risk of extinction in the wild; and the thick-spined and North African crested porcupines are Near Threatened, not currently threatened, but could become so.

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Animal Life ResourceMammals