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a family of mammals of the order Rodentia, comprising the Old World porcupines. The body measures 38-71 cm long and weighs up to 27 kg. The back and sides of the body are covered with spines; in some species (Hystrix) they are quite long, while in others (Trichys) they are hardly noticeable. All the Hystricidae have a tuft of short needles at the end of the tail. There are four genera comprising 20 species.
The animals are distributed in Africa, southern Europe, Southwest Asia, Middle Asia, and southern Asia. The Hystricidae are primarily terrestrial, plantigrade animals. They are nocturnal and live in deserts, savannas, and forests in burrows (up to 18 m long) or rock crevices. In summer they feed on herbaceous vegetation, roots, and fruits and in winter, on shoots of trees and shrubs. The animals may travel far from the burrow (up to 10 km) in search of food. In winter they are less active than in summer, but they do not hibernate. The Hystricidae reproduce once a year in the northern part of the area of distribution and twice a year in the southern part. The gestation period is from six to 16 weeks, and one-four young are born at a time. In the USSR there is one species, the Hystrix leucura, which is found in Transcaucasia and southern Middle Asia. The animal inhabits fields and damages melon crops, gardens, and plantings. Sometimes it is hunted for its flesh. The New World porcupines belong to the family Erithizontidae.
O. L. ROSSOLIMO