Hedgehog Vs Porcupine: Are They The Same?

If you have ever seen a hedgehog and a porcupine compared, you may wonder what is the difference.

If you like exotic pets, you might fancy a hedgehog as a pet, either way they are interesting animals to have around. But, are they the same? No. They aren’t. 

Hedgehogs are smaller than porcupines, they also have quills or spines which are also smaller than those of a porcupine.

Hedgehogs have quills that will fall off, whereas porcupine spines will easily attach themselves to any unfortunate predator who even thinks about coming close enough. 

These two similar and fascinating creatures also have different diets, where porcupines are herbivores, eating mostly plants, hedgehogs are omnivores.

Though these two creatures may have a similar look to them, they are not the same, they are actually far from it. So, let’s talk about these two weird and wonderful animals. 

Are they related? 

At first glance these two creatures might look very similar, however, they really are rather different from one another. These two animals do not only vary in their sizes, but they have very different diets, defensive skills, and habitats too. 

So, if they are not the same, are they even related? Well, no. Hedgehogs and porcupines are not related. Hedgehogs actually belong to the Erinaceidae family, and they are native to certain places in Europe, Africa, Asia, and New Zealand. 

On the other hand there are Porcupines, these belong to the Hystricidae and the Erethizontidae families, and they are native to both North and South America, as well as Asia, Europe, and Africa. 

So, these two creatures are actually very different, and do not even share any real genetic inklings of similarity. 

What are the differences?

Instead of listing all the information on every difference that these two animals have, let’s make it a little more simple for you, so if you are wondering which is which, you can easily define what is a hedgehog and what is a porcupine. 

  • Both species are primarily nocturnal, however, some hedgehogs may venture out during the daytime. 
  • A baby porcupine is called a porcupette, while baby hedgehogs are called hoglets. 
  • Porcupines have very long quills in comparison to hedgehogs. 
  • Hedgehogs will eat meat and vegetation, whereas porcupines only eat vegetation. 
  • Hedgehogs can grow to be anywhere between 4-12 inches long, while a porcupine can be anywhere from 15-18 inches long. 
  • Hedgehogs have poor eyesight, and they mainly rely on smell and touch in order to find food. 
  • There are 17 species of hedgehogs and 29 species of porcupine in the world. 
  • There are some hedgehogs who hibernate, however, a majority of porcupines do not. Instead, they sleep for long hours but then venture out to get food, even if it is very cold outside. 

Where do they live? 

While some of the places that they live in seem to be fairly similar, these two creatures even have different habitats, yes, even in the countries where they both live. 

Hedgehogs will enjoy many different types of spaces, they may live in forests, deserts, or savannas. If they find a spot that they think will make a nice home, they will burrow underground and make their home there. 

Porcupines, on the other hand, like living in forests, deserts, and rocky coves.

Porcupines, unlike the smaller hedgehog, do not create burrows, however they will instead rest inside hollow logs, behind rocks, or in small crevices. Some may even climb into trees to rest on their limbs, however this is rare, but not totally unheard of. 

Porcupines are more likely to be seen in the open than hedgehogs, since they do not burrow underground, however it is also very possible to see a hedgehog in your backyard. 

What do they eat? 

Hedgehogs are omnivores. This means that they can be carnivorous, eating caterpillars, worms, beetles, and maybe even a baby bird or frog if it is lucky enough. Some will also like to have a snack on some fruit or vegetables.

While they mainly enjoy meat, they also like a tasty berry or a bit of foliage as a snack, so their diet has a variation.

Porcupines love plants, they are herbivores. They will often munch on plants or wood, they enjoy hunting for fallen fruits, nuts, grass, seeds, and leaves. Porcupines actually help the environment, whereas a lot of herbivores can be destructive.

They tend to eat old wood which can clear up spaces, becoming beneficial to forests, as this happens their fecal matter acts as a fertilizer that encourages new plants to grow. 

Quill differences

We briefly mentioned their quills earlier, and how they are so different. Their quills are one of their main differences.

Porcupine quills are much longer, they can reach up to three inches long, compared to the smaller one-inch hedgehog quills. 

However, the length is not everything. Hedgehogs also have around 5,000 quills on their bodies, but porcupines have around 30,000 quills! That’s a lot of quills! They also use their quills differently too.

They both experience their quills falling out as time goes on, however porcupines can shoot their quills out of their bodies like projectile arrows when confronted with a predator, hedgehogs cannot do this. 

How do they defend themselves?

These two also defend themselves differently as well. Hedgehogs shoot their quills up, so they cross over each other, which acts as a shield. Hedgehogs will also roll into a tight ball to cover its soft underside that is quill free. 

Porcupines though have other tactics, they keep their stomach flat to the ground.

If a predator gets too close they will stomp their feet and growl, then they will wave their quilled tail around trying to jab at their attacker, they may stomp harder to rattle their quills.

If a predator does jump for them, they will face their hind to the predator, so their face gets caught in the quills, they will then release the quills and run home free, leaving their quills in the face of their attacker. 

Similar yet so different in very many ways.