The Somali hedgehog is one of 17 hedgehog species (Erinaceidae) and is of course endemic to Somalia, a country found in the horn of Africa to the east of the continent. It’s usually found on the borders of the country, in the grasslands and other open habitats.
We know less about the Somali hedgehog than we do other hedgehogs, such as the African pygmy hedgehog which is the most common variety kept as a pet in the U.S.
However, what we do know about this hedgehog we’ve included in this article. We’ll be guiding you through the natural habitat, behaviour and appearance of this mysterious species, so you can get better acquainted with the Somali hedgehog.
Somali Hedgehog Overview:
- Scientific name: Atelerix sclateri
- Family: Erinaceidae
- Found in: Somalia
- Habitat: savanna
- Size: 10–15 cm
- Weight: 40–60 grams
Somali Hedgehog Habitat
The Somali hedgehog is a savanna species that is believed to live mostly in grasslands and other open habitats. A savanna is a mixed woodland-grassland ecosystem characterised by trees that are spaced apart.
Savannas can be found in a variety of climates, from temperate grasslands to the mediterranean scrub biome, but the savannas of Africa are tropical and subtropical, with hot and dry weather and limited rainfall.
Somali hedgehogs, and hedgehogs in general, prefer to reside alone and could also be territorial. Some hedgehogs dig burrows in the soil as deep as 20 inches (50 centimeters), while others make nests out of leaves, grass and branches.
Desert species take cover between boulders or burrows into the sand to stay cool in the heat, and in Asia, long-eared hedgehogs may use burrows left by other animals such as turtles and foxes.
Somali Hedgehog Appearance
The Somali hedgehog is shrew-like in appearance, with a longer snout than some other species of hedgehog.
They’re a lot bigger than shrews however, and usually measure between 10–15 cm (4–6 in) in body size and 40–60 grams (1.4–2.1 oz) in weight.
Somali hedgehogs are characterized by their brown faces and dark brown spines with white bellies. They have brown or black legs, and the tip of their spines tend to be lighter.
Somali Hedgehog Diet
Hedgehogs are insectivores, but they’ll additionally eat different ground-dwelling creatures depending on where they dwell in the world. Some African hedgehog species such as the Somali hedgehog may even eat useless wildlife, small rodents and snakes, and scorpions.
Somali hedgehogs, like all hedgehogs are nocturnal creatures, meaning they sleep in the day and go out to hunt at night. At nightfall, the Somali hedgehog will begin foraging for food, and they’ll eat around one-third of their body weight in a single night!
Hedgehogs are also known to eat eggs, small mammals, birds, frogs, reptiles, fruit, fungi, crops and roots. While they’re not fully resistant to toxins, they have sufficient resistance which allows them to eat small toxic snakes and scorpions.
Recreating a hedgehog’s natural diet can be difficult if you’re keeping one as a pet. Especially those that are savanna species and are used to a whole different biome.
The best diet for hedgehog pets is usually specially formulated hedgehog food, but this should also be supplemented with treats such as mealworms and crickets, as well as fruits and vegetables.
Somali Hedgehog Adaptability
Like all species of hedgehogs, the Somali hedgehog’s greatest asset is their quills, which act as protective armor.
The hedgehog has between 3,000 to 5,000 quills on its back to defend itself from predators. When threatened, the hedgehog raises its quills into a crisscross pattern which makes them even sharper.
When threatened, the hedgehog also makes use of its stomach muscle groups and back muscle groups to curl itself up into a ball, and this stable ball of spikes is difficult for predators to prise open.
Somali Hedgehog Behavior
Circadian rhythms are essential in both animals and humans – as they dictate when we sleep, wake and eat. Hedgehogs are nocturnal, so they’re primarily awake at night or in low light such as dawn and dusk.
Hedgehog activity is not so much dependent on the hour of day, but on the light levels. They’ll come out when levels of light are very low or even pitch black.
Hedgehogs are adapted to survive at night. For example, while they have
poor eyesight, their other senses are sharper to compensate for this weakness. Hedgehogs are naturally timid creatures, so it makes sense that they come out at night when the world is much more calm and quiet during the night.
When hedgehogs detect a new scent, they follow a strange self-anointing ritual where they produce a foamy saliva and rub this throughout their body. Experts still don’t know why hedgehogs do this, but it could be a way of easing stress or a form of protection.
Hedgehogs also perform a courtship in which the male circles around a female in heat, and this can last for hours at a time. However, true to their solitary nature, after mating, they usually go their separate ways.
Somali Hedgehog Reproduction
Female Somali hedgehogs give birth after a gestation interval of around six to seven weeks. Baby hedgehogs are known as hoglets or piglets, and are born blind and hairless, though they’ll start to sprout their spines within 36 hours.
Newborn hedgehogs do have quills at birth, however, these are delicate and are coated by puffy, fluid-filled pores and skin to prevent them from hurting the mom. Within a day or so, the hoglet’s pores and skin shrinks, and about 150 white quills are unveiled.
Hoglets, like other baby animals, will push one another over the milk provided by their mother. By the time they’re a month old, their eyes will have opened and their back will display dense, darkish quills.
Once the hoglets are old enough, they’ll accompany their mother on foraging journeys, where they’ll learn how to hunt.
If they get separated from their mom, young hedgehogs will make a twittering or a whistling to alter their mom to their location. Adult hedgehogs are known to grunt while foraging, and may squeal or grunt when they’re excited or afraid.
It can take between 6 to 13 weeks for hoglets to be weaned. Then, when they’re ready, they’ll leave home to begin a solitary hedgehog life.
While there is limited knowledge of this species, there are believed to be no current threats to the hedgehog’s habitat.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you keep a Somali hedgehog as a pet?
Little is known about the Somali hedgehog, and due to this, it’s extremely rare for them to be kept as pets. As a savanna species, they are adapted to a specific climate and biome and may not survive in captivity.
Is it cruel to have a hedgehog as a pet?
It depends. Some hedgehogs can thrive in captivity, and certain species, such as the African pygmy hedgehog, were domesticated to be kept as pets in the 1980s.
Other species such as the Somali hedgehog are less frequently kept as pets, and if they are available as a pet, how they were imported into the country may be questionable.
If you do keep a hedgehog as a pet, you should ensure that it has a spacious enclosure, and that its cage is placed in a quiet and safe place.
You should also ensure that it follows a healthy diet and that it gets plenty of exercise, both on an exercise wheel and with supervision outside of the cage.
Is it legal to keep a hedgehog as a pet?
In the U.S. it is legal to keep hedgehogs such as the African pygmy hedgehog as a pet in the majority of states, however, in some states you require a permit to keep a hedgehog, as they’re classed as “exotic animals” while in certain states, it is illegal to own a hedgehog.
These states include California, Georgia, Hawaii and Pennsylvania, as well as the 5 Boroughs of New York City – The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island.
Before purchasing or keeping a hedgehog as a pet, make sure you check whether it’s legal in your state, as well as any documentation that may be required.
Do hedgehogs live in the African savanna?
Yes, hedgehogs can be found in various countries in Africa, across a variety of climates and terrains in East Africa, West Africa, and Central Africa.
They’re found in places which offer dry shelter and well-drained soil, with a good supply of ground-dwelling insects and other invertebrates.
Somali hedgehogs are a fascinating species, but sadly there’s limited information available on the web. They’re not as well researched as their European or African pygmy cousins.
What we do know is that these hedgehogs thrive in their natural environment – the grassy, open savannas of east Africa – so you’re unlikely to be able to purchase one as a pet in the U.S.