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hedgehog, Old World insectivorous mammal of the family Erinaceidae.

The spiny hedgehogs are found in Africa and Eurasia, except SE Asia. They have rounded bodies up to 13 in. (33 cm) long, very short tails, and pointed snouts; their backs and sides are covered with stiff spines and their undersides with coarse hair. They are usually brown and yellow in color. When frightened, a hedgehog rolls itself into a tight ball with its spines pointing outward; when rolled up it is invulnerable to almost any predator.

The European hedgehog, Erinaceus europaeus, is about 9 in. (23 cm) long, with small ears. It is strictly nocturnal, spending the day in a burrow in the undergrowth; it hibernates in midwinter. The name hedgehog describes the tendency of these animals to make their burrows in the hedgerows that surround English fields.

Hedgehogs are not related to hogs, but they root in the ground for food in the manner of hogs. Their diet consists of small animals, including worms, insects, frogs, mice, and even poisonous snakes; they have a high level of immunity to viper venom. A hedgehog will bite a snake and then roll itself up as the snake strikes, repeating this procedure until the snake is dead.

E. europaeus is found throughout Europe and N Asia, as far north as the limits of the deciduous forest. Other spiny hedgehog species are found in Africa and Asia; many are desert dwellers. Some are wholly nocturnal and others only partially so; all either hibernate or aestivate and tend to hole up during dry weather. Some species have large pointed ears like those of dogs.

The hairy hedgehogs, or gymnures, are found instead of spiny hedgehogs in SE Asia. They resemble long-snouted rats and have coarse bristles but no spines. They give off a distinctive musky odor, produced by anal glands. The largest of the gymnures is the moon rat, Echinosorex gymnurus, with a 15-in. long (38-cm) body and an 8-in. (20-cm) tail.

There are no New World hedgehogs, although the North American porcupine, which is not an insectivore but a rodent, is sometimes erroneously called a hedgehog. The spines of hedgehogs differ from those of porcupines; they are not barbed and do not pull out of the animal's skin easily.

Both spiny and hairy hedgehogs are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Erinaceomorpha, family Erinaceidae.

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A portable obstacle, made of crossed poles laced with barbed wire, in the general shape of an hourglass.
A beach obstacle, usually made of steel bars or channel iron, imbedded in concrete and used to interfere with beach landings.
A concentration of troops securely entrenched or fortified, with arms and defenses facing all directions.
(vertebrate zoology)
The common name for members of the insectivorous family Erinaceidae characterized by spines on their back and sides.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


attribute of gourmandism personified. [Animal Symbolism: Hall, 146]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. any small nocturnal Old World mammal of the genus Erinaceus, such as E. europaeus, and related genera, having a protective covering of spines on the back: family Erinaceidae, order Insectivora (insectivores)
2. any other insectivores of the family Erinaceidae, such as the moon rat
3. US any of various other spiny animals, esp the porcupine
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in classic literature ?
"Very well, I am ready to drop the hedgehog, if you like; but I am anxious to be able to clear up this accumulation of misunderstandings.
The hoglet was discovered behind holy walls rolled in a ball before being taken to the Northumbrian Hedgehog Rescue Trust based in Longframlington.
''A hedgehog can hang out all day while you are at work, you can come home, hang out with it for a couple of hours or.
The hedgehog population stood at 35 million in 1960, and showed a staggering 37 percent decline over the last decade alone, according to the People's Trust for Endangered Species.
Dr Yamaguchi is very familiar with the peculiarities of certain hedgehogs. For instance, 009, the first radio-tracked Ethiopian hedgehog in the world, is an over three-year old male adult who would not curl up, unlike others, if picked up.
Go on, think about it, when was the last time you saw a hedgehog? Matters have become so drastic that hedgehog lovers across the UK have launched a series of surveys and initiatives to encourage the public to record sightings of the troubled animal.
Through Hedgehog Street we are asking volunteer Hedgehog Champions to rally support from their friends and neighbours and work together to create ideal hedgehog habitat throughout their street, school or communal grounds.
We have just launched a brand new project called Hedgehog Street asking people to think about the way they garden and care for their green spaces.
The department says hedgehog numbers in Cyprus have been steadily decreasing due to a perception that these animals are 'worthless'.
* provide appropriate client education to new hedgehog owners.
CONSERVATIONISTS have a job on their hands - they want to count EVERY hedgehog in Ireland.
One such series of signals, known as the hedgehog signaling pathway, occurs in a variety of creatures, from insects to people.