1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Porcupine

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PORCUPINE (Fr., porc-épic, “spiny pig”), the name of the largest European representative of the terrestrial rodent mammals, distinguished by the spiny covering from which it takes its name. The European porcupine (Hystrix cristata) is the typical representative of a family of Old World rodents, the Hystricidae, all the members of which have the same protective covering. These rodents are characterized by the imperfectly rooted cheek-teeth, imperfect clavicles or collar-bones, cleft upper lip, rudimentary first front-toes, smooth soles, six teats and many cranial characters. They range over the south of Europe, the whole of Africa, India and the Malay Archipelago as far east as Borneo. They are all stout, heavily-built animals, with blunt rounded heads, fleshy mobile snouts, and coats of thick cylindrical or flattened spines, which form the whole covering of their body, and are not intermingled with ordinary hairs. Their habits are strictly terrestrial. Of the three genera Hystrix is characterized by the inflated skull, in which the nasal chamber is often considerably larger than the brain-case, and

EB1911 Porcupine.png
The Porcupine (Hystrix cristata).

the short tail, tipped with numerous slender-stalked open quills, which make a loud rattling noise whenever the animal moves. The common porcupine (H. cristata), which occurs throughout the south of Europe and North and West Africa, is replaced in South Africa by H. africaeaustralis and in India by the hairy-nosed porcupine (H. leucura).

Besides these large crested species, there are several smaller species without crests in north-east India, and the Malay region from Nepal to Borneo. The genus Atherura includes the brush-tailed porcupines which are much smaller animals, with long tails tipped with bundles of flattened spines. Two species are found in the Malay region and one in West Africa. Trichys, the last genus, contains two species, T. fasciculata of Borneo and T. macrotis of Sumatra, both externally very like Atherura, but differing from the members of that genus in many cranial characteristics. In the New World the porcupines are represented by the members of the family Erethizontidae, or Coendidae, which have rooted molars, complete collar-bones. entire upper lips, tuberculated soles, no trace of a first front-toe, and four teats. The spines are mixed with long soft hairs. They are less strictly nocturnal in their habits; and with one exception live entirely in trees, having in correspondence with this long and powerful prehensile tails. They include three genera, of which the first is represented by the Canadian porcupine (Erethizon dorsatus), a stout, heavily-built animal, with long hairs almost or quite hiding its spines, four front- and five hind-toes, and a short, stumpy tail. It is a native of the greater part of Canada and the United States, wherever there is any remnant of the original forest left. Synetheres, or Coendu, contains some eight or ten species, known as tree-porcupines, found throughout tropical South America, with one extending into Mexico. They are of a lighter build than the ground-porcupines, with short, close, many-coloured spines, often mixed with hairs, and prehensile tails. The hind-feet have only four toes, owing to the suppression of the first, in place of which they have a fleshy pad on the inner side of the foot, between which and the toes boughs and other objects can be firmly grasped as with a hand. Chaetomys, distinguished by the shape of its skull and the greater complexity of its teeth, contains C. subspinosus, a native of the hottest parts of Brazil.  (W. H. F.; R. L.*)