The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Hedgehog

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HEDGEHOG, a small insectivorous mammal of the Old World family Erinaceidæ, and especially of the genus Erinaceus, characterized by its coat of stiff spines. The family inhabit temperate Europe and Asia, but are not known on sea-girt islands. The best known of the score of species is the common hedgehog (E. europæus). It has a long nose, the face, sides and rump covered with strong, coarse, yellowish hair, the back with sharp, strong spines; and is about nine inches long plus a very short tail. Hedgehogs, as their name indicates, reside under hedges and in thickets, where they turn over the leaves and root in the mould for insects (especially beetles), snails, lizards, roots, fallen fruit, etc.; they are, indeed, omnivorous. The hedgehog defends itself against attack by rolling itself up, and thus exposing no part of its body that is not furnished with a defense of spines. It may be rendered domestic to a certain degree, and has been employed in Europe to destroy cockroaches, which it pursues with avidity. In the winter, in cold climates, the hedgehog wraps itself in a warm nest, composed of moss, dried hay and leaves, and remains torpid till the return of spring. The female produces four or five young at a birth, which soon become covered with prickles. These animals are sometimes used as food, and are said to be very delicate. The long-eared hedgehog (E. auritas) of the East is smaller than the common, and is distinguished by the great size of its ears and shortness of tail. Fossil forms as far back as the Miocene differ little from existing spedes. No true hedgehogs exist in America; the animals often so called being the very different porcupines (q.v.).