At some point in our lives we’ve all encountered a hedgehog, but have you ever asked yourself what exactly goes into the makeup of these creatures and what breeds of hedgehog there are out there?
Well, if you have, then read on, as we’ve got the ultimate guide to one of the rarest hedgehogs around: The Algerian hedgehog.
This species can still be found in certain areas such as North Africa, although they have become far more scarce since their habitats have been decimated by deforestation and human encroachment.
A little-known fact is that the common hedgehog that you might find in the backyards of Europe and North America are descended from the Algerian hedgehog. This is when the North African bred with the four-toed hedgehog that you can find in certain parts of Europe and Asia.
But what does the Algerian hedgehog actually look like? Can you spot it amongst a crowd of similar hedgehogs?
Where can you find this species more commonly hanging out? How does it behave and will it let you get close? Is this breed of hedgehog a positive or negative influence on its surrounding environment?
If you are looking for more info on this animal, then we would suggest that you read on.
We have everything that you need to know about the Algerian variety and whether or not you’ll be able to see it in your backyard anytime soon. We also have the diet of the Algerian hedgehog, comparing it to its more common European cousins.
What Does An Algerian Hedgehog Look Like?
In terms of its physical appearance, there is not a lot of difference between the Algerian hedgehog and the more common European hedgehog.
If you were to have a ruler, then you would probably notice that the Algerian hedgehog was slightly longer than its European counterpart. They usually measure anywhere between 20 and 25cm long.
In terms of weight, it is also a lot heavier, weighing up to around 650 grams, with a longer snout and longer legs. You could say that this is a more stocky version of the hedgehogs that we are used to seeing at the side of the road or in a big pile of dead leaves every day.
Color-wise, this hedgehog also looks very similar to the European hedgehog: with a light face and legs and a predominantly dark brown body. The underbelly of the Algerian hedgehog varies wildly, either coming in a brown or grey color. You can even get hedgehogs that have completely white bodies, although this is rarer.
Because of the longer appendages, this hedgehog can move much faster, which makes it great for catching fast grubs and probably is why it is such a large creature.
It has very visible ears on the side of its head that are large and rounded. This is what distinguishes it from the Desert hedgehogs, who have long and pointy ears.
This hedgehog’s body is also covered in very distinctive spines, which is pretty characteristic of most other species of animal. These spines are generally white, although you can get the occasional brown band across them.
You might not be able to tell this apart from other species of hedgehog, as it also does not have any spines on its head, legs or tail.
This species of hedgehog is also distinctive because of its four toes on each leg, which is very rare. Most other hedgehogs of this species have about five toes. The spines on this hedgehog’s body are also generally sharper.
The spikes are also generally a lot softer than other species and you can probably hold them quite easily in your hand – although when handling them we would generally recommend that you use gloves.
Another good method of recognizing this animal is by the widow’s peak on its head, which is often a spine-free parting. A lot of other species of hedgehog have this parting too, but it is even more noticeable on the Algerian hedgehog.
How Does An Algerian Hedgehog Behave?
This mimics a lot of the same behaviors as most other breeds of hedgehog. It is a very solitary and nocturnal creature, often coming out only at night to forage for food and try and find places to give birth to its young.
This species is very quiet and you probably won’t hear anything from it. However, it has often been witnessed to make little grunts when mating, especially from the male. Mothers have also been known to communicate with their babies with short grunting sounds too.
Like most other hedgehogs, the Algerian variant will curl into a ball when it feels threatened or is under attack. It will also curl up just to keep warm during the colder seasons.
The muscles involved with curling up are involuntary, meaning that it almost has no control over whether or not to curl up. However, some of the muscles it does have control over, so it can curl up for simple pleasure.
Like its cousin the Desert hedgehog, this once has softer spines so it might not always rely on them to escape danger. More often than not, this hedgehog will try to run away from a predator, rather than curling into a self-defense ball. This is something that it will only do as a last resort.
What Is The Habitat Of The Algerian Hedgehog?
Coming from the Northern end of Africa, this hedgehog prefers a hot and dry climate, often nestling in cliffsides with plenty of foliage so that it can escape the eye of airborne predators such as eagles and vultures.
It also prefers the mixed forest areas that you can find in places like Morocco and Spain, as well as generally around North Africa.
This hedgehog cannot survive in desert climates, so it has to be sure there is plenty of foliage and water nearby to keep it sustained. It can also be found in warmer regions like Southern France and the Canary Islands.
You can find these hedgehogs in humid city areas, with a lot of these creatures found in recreation areas like parks and grassland. You will probably have to wait until nighttime to see this creature out in its natural habitat.
What Does The Algerian Hedgehog Eat?
As with a lot of breeds of hedgehog, this one has a natural propensity for insects, largely steering clear of foliage. This hedgehog will eat all sorts of creatures, from moths to slugs to worms.
It will often gravitate to a place where there are flowers, as this is where these creatures tend to live.
However, like a lot of the desert and arid varieties of hedgehogs, they will occasionally get brave and try their luck on a larger animal such as a scorpion or a venomous snake. This is also because the Algerian hedgehog has much more resistance to poisonous animals.
If it does decide to eat a scorpion, then it will usually bite off the sting first before trying to eat the rest of the animal. It has also been known to brave it by eating ground-nesting birds’ eggs, although it won’t attack the birds to take the eggs, rather waiting until the birds have left the nest.
If food is hard to come by, then the hedgehog will enter into a kind of hibernation, although this is not exactly what it is. It is simply a period of inactivity when the creature will have to search for food less and will conserve a lot more energy. When it is really hot or cool, the hedgehog will also retire to its burrow for longer periods of time.
Because they prefer forest rather than open grassland, you can expect this creature to have a lot fewer natural predators, able to hide in the foliage rather than stray out into the open. However, some of these hedgehogs have been known to fight each other when their paths cross.
Captive Algerian hedgehogs are often fed dried crickets and other insects that mimic their diet out in the wild. Hedgehogs will be happy eating dead or alive insects, but if you can get live ones, then this would be preferable.
We would recommend that you keep your children and animals away from Algerian hedgehogs, as their spines will give them a nasty shock and might cause injury.
How Does An Algerian Hedgehog Reproduce?
The size of this animal’s litter is around 3 to 10 hoglets per litter, taking around 30 to 40 days to grow and evolve. They usually start giving birth around the Autumn season, anywhere between October and March.
When they are born, these hoglets are pink and hairless, as the spines will often damage the mother on exit.
These hoglets will weigh around 20 grams when they are born and will reach their full sexual development at around 10 weeks old. The male of the species will often have very little to do with the child-rearing after copulation, often leaving immediately after breeding with the female.
This species does not usually practice pair bonding, as the male will try and impregnate as many females as possible to increase the chances of success. The male will often signal to the female using a series of grunts. This is how she will know that the male is ready for copulation.
The Algerian hedgehog often is susceptible to a certain intestinal parasite, however, this is often not harmful to it or its offspring.
How Does The Algerian Hedgehog Affect Its Ecosystem?
A lot of these hedgehogs are restricted to the Mediterranean areas, simply because old habitats such as the coastal shelf have been decimated by the encroachment of human beings that have chopped down wide areas of forest.
It is supposed that the Alergian hedgehog was introduced to Spain through North Africa.
As with a lot of hedgehogs, the Algerian version does little to impact harmfully on the environment. They usually keep their numbers at a stable level, so they will not overrun a certain area in the same way as rats or mice.
These hedgehogs will help to kill all harmful pests in your garden, especially ticks that are very harmful to certain indoor plants. If you want to organically contain the number of pests in the area, then we would recommend that you introduce a few of these types of hedgehogs into your garden.
This hedgehog is not omnivorous, so it will largely leave your garden alone. These are perfect animals to have in the neighborhood if you have a large farm and are looking to restrict the growth of harmful insects.
However, if you do have a farm, you might want to be wary of this hedgehog getting into your corn as it might ruin your year’s worth of yield. Hedgehogs are naturally preyed upon by birds, so if you want to keep them protected, make sure there is plenty of vegetation for them to hide out in.
One of the biggest predators of hedgehogs is currently reading this article – that’s right, you! Traffic on roads has risen exponentially in the last few years, and this is a massive killer of Algerian hedgehogs and has contributed to the large dip in their number over the last few years.
If you want to protect your local Algerian hedgehog, we suggest that you try constructing runs in your garden.
Runs are tunnels that are built under the road so that the hedgehogs can cross from one side to the other with complete safety. However, you might have to ask for permission from your local authority before you go digging up the road.
The one thing that might negatively affect your surroundings is the hedgehog flea. This parasite can easily migrate from wild hedgehogs to domestic pets such as dogs or cats. So if you have any pets, then make sure to keep them away from these spiny critters.
Another reason you’ll want to avoid contact between your dog or cat and any hedgehogs in the local area is the fact of their spines. These spines, while not deadly, can still be the cause of lots of injury in your animals, as well as the hedgehog themselves.
Dogs are often found to have bloodied muzzles simply because they have gotten into a tussle with a nearby hedgehog.
Where Can You Find This Hedgehog?
If you live outside of certain parts of North Africa, France or Spain, then you’ll probably be out of luck. These animals are incredibly rare and difficult to spot from the traditional European and North American hedgehog.
If you are planning on observing this hedgehog in the wild, then we would suggest laying out some dried crickets for it to eat. Then you can rig up your night vision camera – a lot of garage security cameras have this function – so that you can spy on the movements of this hedgehog without having to worry about it getting frightened.
As we have mentioned previously, this animal is very sensitive to movement.
If it sees you trying to get close, most likely it will scurry away or roll up into a ball – although this second option is much more of a rare occurrence. We would definitely recommend that you don’t go hunting any Algerian hedgehogs with your dog.
You can also get these hedgehogs in captivity. If you are thinking about buying one from your local pet store, then we would recommend that you give your hedgehog plenty of light and shelter. Remember that they thrive on heat, so be sure that you’ll have everything that you need for it to stay comfortable.
If you are going to feed this animal regularly, then make sure that meat makes up a large portion of its diet.
Try cooking pork and little chunks of beef to give to your Alergian hedgehog. The closer that you can get its feed to that of insects, the better. We would suggest that you buy some dried crickets from your local pet store.
Our Final Say
We hope that this guide has helped you understand a little about this rare beast. If you want to help to protect the Alergain hedgehog, there are plenty of websites that you can log into to donate and contribute to conservation efforts.
One great way of ensuring that this hedgehog is kept from danger is by campaigning with your local authority to make sure that they install tunnels under the road so that your hedgehogs can cross safely.
Remember that the best way to observe these animals is from a distance, they are very solitary creatures and they don’t like being bothered!