Five differences between hedgehogs and porcupines

Many people ask if the hedgehog animal ambassador at the Dickinson County Nature Center is related to a porcupine.

However, hedgehogs and porcupines aren't actually related at all. There are 17 different species of hedgehogs, and their closest relations are actually shrews and moles. There are more than two dozen species of porcupines in the world, and they are a part of the rodent family.

Here are some other differences between these creatures that seem more alike than they really are:

baby hedgehog with white background



porcupine with rocks in background



hedgehog rolled into a ball


  1. Quills
    Hedgehogs have short quills, sometimes called spines, that about 1 inch long. Hedgehogs do not lose their quills, except for quilling as a baby (read about that here) and a few here and there throughout their lives like humans lose hair.
    Porcupines have longer quills than hedgehogs. Some species have 2-3 inch quills while an African species has quills almost a foot long. Porcupine quills easily fall off.
    Hedgehogs have about 5,000 spines, whereas porcupines have about 30,000.
  2. Defensive behavior
    Perhaps the most noticed difference between hedgehogs and porcupines is how they use their quills to defend themselves.
    Hedgehogs will roll into a ball and erect their spines so that no part of their soft body is showing. That way, predators don't have anything to bite and are deterred by the spiky creatures.
    A porcupine will arch its back and stick up its quills, waving its tail around to hit a predator so its quills will stick into the attacker. A porcupine's quills are barbed so that they stick in a predator and are difficult to remove.
  3. Native range
    Hedgehogs are not native to North America. Instead, they are typically found in Europe and northern Africa. The North American porcupine is found throughout Alaska, Canada and in the western and northeastern U.S. Other species are found throughout the world as well.
  4. Food
    Hedgehogs are insectivores, which means their main diet consists of insects. They may also eat other invertebrates or even mice, frogs and small snakes.
    Porcupines are herbivores, living off of fruit, leaves, grass, buds, bark and stems.
  5. Size
    Hedgehogs are quite small compared to porcupines.
    Hedgehog sizes vary dependent on the species, but range from 4-12 inches, with a tiny tail that doesn't grow more than 2 inches long.
    Porcupines grow to 20-36 inches long with a tail that is 8-10 inches long.