Prickly Pear Pedigree – Are Hedgehogs Rodents?

As a responsible owner, you must wonder: what type of animals are hedgehogs? Finding out your pet’s origins helps you care for them according to their exact needs. Try to recreate the conditions these once wild mammals’ ancestors used to live under. This way you are setting them up for a long and healthy life.

Are hedgehogs rodents?

 

No, hedgehogs are not rodents; they belong to the order Eulipotyphla. 

Both Rodentia and Eulipotyphla are orders of the Mammalia (mammals) class. 

Hedgehogs do have some similar features to rodents, but there are profound differences between them.

Read on to see how hedgehogs and rodents differ.

What is a rodent?

 

About 40% of mammals are rodents.

They all belong to the Rodentia order.
The name comes from the Latin rodere verb which means “to gnaw”.

Teeth of a beaver
Teeth of a beaver


A pair of huge incisors are constantly growing in each of their upper and lower jaws.
Because of these teeth, they always must be chewing on something.
This is to prevent their overgrowth.

 They mainly eat plants, with the occasional animal snack.

There are only a handful of predators among them.
One select species is the grasshopper mouse.
This is a cutie that can turn scorpion venom into a painkiller, fights like a jedi, and howls like a wolf. 
Definitely my spirit animal.

These placental mammals’ come in a wide variety of forms.

Their order ranges from the gigantic, dog-sized, South American capybaras to the naked mole-rats.
Mole rats also go by the name ‘sand puppy’ and are residents in South America.

They look like an underground Vienna Sausage with toothpicks for incisors.

Capybara family
Capybara family

Lots these species are kept as pets in the United States. Guinea pigs, rats, mice, hamsters, chinchillas, chipmunks, even prairie dogs.

Rabbits and hares have similar incisors to their gnawy friends. 

Overgrown teeth of a rabbit
Overgrown teeth of a rabbit

The difference is, that they have 4 of them in their upper jaw instead of two.
They used to belong to Rodentia.
Now, these animals have their own group, Lagomorpha which means “rabbit-shaped”.
How creative, right?
Members of these two orders aren’t too distant relatives as they share a common ancestor.

Hedgehogs are also mammals, but they belong to the Eulipotyphla order.

Their blunt Latin name translates “truly fat and blind”.

In reality, they are only plump and don’t see that well.

Instead of huge incisors and molars used for gnawing, they have lots of little sharp teeth to catch small animals with. Their front teeth look like cute vampire fangs. They do have small, pointy canines.

Hedgehog teeth
Hedgehog teeth

Hedgies are omnivores, aka walking trash-cans. 

They eat whatever they can find and catch in nature. Insects, slugs, snails, eggs, birds, or reptiles. 
They are missing the part of their intestines called the caecum. This digests cellulose found in plants, so their diet is mainly animal-protein based. 
Like most mammals, they need dietary fibers. Instead of cellulose, they have chitin from invertebrate exoskeletons. This material makes up the hard parts of bugs.

 RodentsHedgehogs
Teeth4 constantly growing incisors placed side by side
no canines
big premolars
big molars
cute, vampire-like fangs, with a gap between them
small, pointy canines
pointy premolars
lots of small but sharp teeth
Foodmostly herbivorous omnivore


mostly plants
occasional animal snack
some omnivorous and predatory species
insectivorous omnivore


whatever they find in nature, dead or alive
prefer insects and other small animals
bit of plant matter
Caecum - part of intestine digesting cellulose (plants)yes
they can digest plants
no
they can't digest plants
Gnawingneed to gnaw no need to gnaw
Plants (cellulose)can digestcan not digest
Animal proteinmost can do withoutit's life!
Dietary fibercellulose (plants)chitin (invertebrate exoskeletons, e.g. bugs' shells)

Where Are Hedgehogs From?

 

There isn’t one place that could be pointed at as a place of origin for hedgies. 

They are native to Europe, Asia, and Africa. They were taken to New Zealand from England by humans. 
Because of the lack of natural predators, they can become a threat to wildlife.
So in New Zealand, any wild hedgehogs are considered pests. Even if they are only pets gone wild. They are not native to Australia and their import is banned in all forms.

No native hedgehog species are living in the Americas.  
Millions of years ago, the Amphechinus genus was the only one, but it’s become extinct long ago.

Where Are Hedgehogs Common? 

 

Several continents have their own hedgehog species.

Hedgehog on mongolian stamp
Hedgehog on Mongolian stamp

Members from the Atelerix genus are all from the African continent. Some traveled to some warmer parts of Europe with humans.

The most commonly-bred domesticated hedgie type is the African Pygmy hedgehog. According to one theory they are actually a cross of two Atelerix species: The Four-toed and the North African hedgehog. 

Species in the Erinaceus genus range from the European countries through the Middle East. They are also found in bits of Russia all the way through to China.
They are also the ones populating your childhood’s storybooks.
Fun fact: the ones living in New Zealand are descendants of the European species.

Storybook hedgehog
Storybook hedgehog

The two long eared species belong to the Hemiechinus genus. Their species are found in South and Central Asia, India, and Pakistan.

Members of the Mesechinus genus all live in different parts of Asia.

There are no hedgehogs native to the Americas, Australia, or New Zealand.

     
Atelerix genusFour-toed hedgehog
(Atelerix albiventris)
North African hedgehog
(Atelerix algirus)
Southern African hedgehog
(Atelerix frontalis)
Somali hedgehog
(Atelerix sclateri)
A wide strip of central Africa, from Gambia and Senegal in the west, to Somalia in the east, as far south as Mozambique in eastern Africa.Native to Algeria, Libya,
Malta, Morocco, Spain, and Tunisia.
Taken to France, Spain, and the Canary Islands by people.
Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe.Somalia.
Erinaceus
genus
Amur hedgehog
(E. amurensis)
White-bellied hedgehog
(E. concolor)
European hedgehog
(E. europaeus)
Northern white-breasted hedgehog
(E. roumanicus)
All Europe, through the Middle East, bits of Russia, to northern China. Some of the European hedgehogs have been introduced to New Zealand.Southwestern Asia.Europe, from Iberia and Italy northwards into ScandinaviaPoland, Austria and the former Yugoslavia. South to Greece and the Adriatic Islands. Including populations on Crete, Corfu and Rhodes. Found eastwards through Russia and Ukraine, as far east as the Ob River in Siberia.
Hemiechinus
genus
Long-eared hedgehog
(H. auritus)
a
Indian long-eared hedgehog
(H. collaris)
Central Asian countries
and some countries of the Middle East.
Northern India and Pakistan.
Mesechinus

genus
Daurian hedgehog
(Mesechinus dauuricus)
Hugh's hedgehog
(Mesechinus hughi)
Gaoligong forest hedgehog (Mesechinus wangi)Small-toothed forest hedgehog
(Mesechinus miodon)
Transbaikal region of Russia
(this region is sometimes called Dauria, hence the name) and Northern Mongolia.
Native to central China and Manchuria.Only in China.Northern Shaanxi and eastern Ningxia, China.
ParaechinusDesert hedgehog
(Paraechinus aethiopicus)
Brandt's hedgehog
(Paraechinus hypomelas)
Indian hedgehog
(Paraechinus micropus)
Bare-bellied hedgehog (Paraechinus nudiventris)
Bahrain, Algeria,
Chad, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Somalia,
Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, and possibly Ethiopia.
Parts of the Middle East and Central Asia.India and Pakistan.Southeastern India.
 

What Animal Family Are Hedgehogs From?

Hedgehogs belong to the family Erinaceidae and the sub-family Erinaceinae. 

They used to have 17 species belonging to 5 genera.
The Northern white-breasted hedgehog (Erinaceus Roumanicus) has recently been recognized as species on its own.

What Two Species Are Domestic Hedgehogs?

There are actually more than two domestic hedgehog species.

The most common one is the African pygmy hedgehog (Atelerix Albiventris).
It’s also called the Four-toed hedgehog.

African pygmy hedgehog
African pygmy hedgehog

The two long-eared species (Hemiechinus auritus auritus) and (Hemiechinus collaris) have gotten popular recently.

Long-eared hedgehog (Hemiechinus auritus)
Long-eared hedgehog (Hemiechinus auritus)
Indian long-eared hedgehog
Indian long-eared hedgehog

However, proceed with caution as caring for them is way more complicated than for pygmies.

European Hedgehogs (E. Europaeus) are protected and cannot be kept as pets.

Are Hedgehogs Rodents or Marsupials?

Neither. Hedgehogs are part of the order Eulipotyphla.

Some think hedgehogs are rodents because they kinda look similar.
Yet, their origins and lifestyle are very different.

The most common rodents kept as pets are rats, mice, guinea pigs, gerbils, chinchillas, and hamsters.
They all belong to the order Rodentia.

Pet Rodents
Pet Rodents

 

The best-known Marsupials are opossums, kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, wombats, and Tasmanian devils.

Best-known marsupials
Best-known marsupials

Sugar gliders are the most popular pet marsupials. Fun fact:
Flying squirrels and sugar gliders look almost the same while one is a rodent and the other is a marsupial. Both can cover impressive distances in the air. 
Yet, sugar gliders and flying squirrels aren’t actually flying like birds.

They are only falling with style.

The simplest way to tell rodents and marsupials apart is to check their teeth and tummy.
Former have ever-growing front teeth, the latter have a pouch for their babies.
Although Lagomorphs like rabbits also have similar teeth, Marsupials surely don’t.

Hedgehogs have neither, they belong to a different order of animals called Eulipotyphla. 

Their closest living relatives are moonrats and gymnures. 
According to one theory, they might loosely be related to shrews tenrecs and golden moles, too, based on fossil records.

I admit animal taxonomy can be really tricky.

Are Hedgehogs Mammals?

Yes, hedgehogs are mammals.

Hedgehog Mother Nursing
Hedgehogs are mammals

Hedgehogs belong to the class Mammalia.
Their order is Eulipotyphla, in the family Petauridae. 
Their sub-family is Erinaceidae, or Hedgehogs. 
Hedgehogs have 18 distinct species belonging to 5 different genera (multiple of genus).

Mammal in layman’s terms means that they breastfeed their babies. Or at least they have glands to produce milk to feed them.

What Animals Are Similar To Hedgehogs?

 

It depends on how you define “similar”.

Porcupines

Porcupine
Porcupine
Hedgehog
Hedgehog

Their quills and their defense mechanisms are different. Porcupines have longer quills and they are brittle.
Neither are they related to hedgies.
They are both mammals, but porcupines are rodents.
As such they are herbivores, they only eat plants.

Hedgehogs belong to the order Eulipotyphla.

They are omnivores so they eat anything, though not too keen on plants.
Although their quills can poke you, but they won’t break off like porcupine quills.

Tenrecs 

Tenrec
Tenrec
Hedgehog
Hedgehog

They are mammals belonging to the family Afrosoricida as opposed to the Eulipotyphla family of the hedgehogs.
These cuties’ closest living relatives are golden moles. 
They have very diverse looks, but some of them are bewilderingly similar to hedgies.
They are smaller than hedgies, with a longer, rat-like snout.
Their limbs are long and skinny, making them great climbers.

Hedgies are plump and clumsy.
It’s also much easier to tell the gender of hedgehogs as their prickly copies’ genitals are hidden.
The most important difference is to consider from a pet point of view is the smell.
While a well-kept hedgehog never stinks, male tenrecs smell like stale Doritos. 

Interesting fact: they have one of the lowest body temperatures among mammals, 86 to 95 degrees °F (30 to 35 degrees °C ).
Yet, it still doesn’t beat hedgehogs’ body temperature in hibernation, which can go as low as 2–5 °C (36–41 °F).

This gives a brand new meaning to the term ‘I’m freezing’.

Echidnas 

Echidna
Echidna
Hedgehog
Hedgehog

They are also called spiny anteaters.
They look like a cross between a rat and a porcupine.
Their closest relative is the platypus, they lay eggs and live in Australia and New Guinea.
They are protected, but wouldn’t make great pets anyway. No, they are not related to hedgehogs either.

Moonrats

Also known as gymnures, or hairy hedgehogs have hair instead of quills as their name indicates.
They are the only non-quilly animals similar to hedgies.
They are mentioned because they are the closest relatives of hedgehogs.
Gymnures look a bit like rats, but instead of being rodents, they belong to the same Erinaceidae family as their prickly cousins.

Are Hedgehogs And Possums Related?

No, not from close.

The North American or Virginia opossum are found in the United States and Canada.

Virginia Opossum
Virginia Opossum


The common opossum is native to Mexico, Central America, and South America.


They are all casually called possums.
However, the ones officially called possums live in Australasia and belong to a different order of mammals.

Australasian Possum
Australasian Possum

 

Opossums and possums are both Marsupials, while Hedgehogs are Eulipotyphla, though all are mammals.

It’s easy to tell these exotic mammals apart.
If they have quills they are not possums.
If they have a pouch for their babies and hang upside down from a tree, they are definitely not hedgehogs. 

Are Hedgehogs Related To Bears?

 

No. At least not much more than they are to us, humans. 

Bears are placental mammals that belong to the order Carnivora.

Although their Latin name means “flesh eaters”, this is only true for the polar bear.
Most bears are omnivores as avid campers might already know.
The giant panda is the vegan of the bears.
Not only do they eat plants only, but their diet consists almost entirely of bamboo.

The closest most people can get to owning a bear is to get a ferret. 
Ferrets are smaller, slimmer, cuddlier, lower to maintain fluffy carnivores.

Hedgehogs are all are in the order called Eulipotyphla. 
They are omnivores like most bears, but their size is about a bear-bite.

It’s pretty easy to tell hedgehogs and bears apart.
If they are big and hairy, they are not hedgehogs.
If they are small and prickly, they are not bears.

Bearcub and hedgehog
Bearcub and hedgehog

Now you know the basics about the origins and classification of hedgehogs.
Read on to know everything about owning a hedgehog and the legalities of hedgehog ownership.
 

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