Hedgehog identification guide

The two species found in the Iberian Peninsula, the European Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) and the North African Hedgehog (Atelerix algirus), look alike, but there are morphological traits which allow us to distinguish them with almost absolute certainty.

Internal traits (can only be examined in dead individuals)

Dentition

The last premolar on the European Hedgehog's mandible features a prominent gap between the paraconid and the protoconid. In contrast, this gap is minute in the case of the North African Hedgehog.

Molars

Palatine bone

The European Hedgehog's palatine bone ends in a transversal ridge and the middle bony spine. The North African Hedgehog's palatine bone ends in a bony sheet which includes the middle bony spine.

External traits

Coloration

It is necessary to take coloration into account, despite the fact that this trait alone cannot be used to conclusively distinguish the two species. Peninsular North African Hedgehogs have spines with grey, white (and sometimes brown) tones, while their hair is often white and their faces feature a black facial mask. The European Hedgehog is predominantly brown, ranging from very light to very dark tones.

Spines

Both species have spines with a dark ring, which lies at a different height in each of them. In European hedgehogs, it can be found at the end of the spines, whereas in North African hedgehogs, it lies towards the middle. On the other hand, the European Hedgehog has stronger and longer spines (20–25 mm) than the North African Hedgehog (10–20 mm).

Spiny fringe

The North African Hedgehog's spiny armour comes to a straight stop on the edge of its head, much like a spiny fringe. This species also has a V-shaped, spineless receding hairline. In the European Hedgehog, the fringe is almost pointed.

Ears

The North African Hedgehog's ears protrude from its spines and are easily seen, whereas the European Hedgehog's are barely visible.

Thumbs and halluces

The North African Hedgehog's thumbs are much smaller than the European Hedgehog's. This difference is even more obvious in the halluces.

Snout

The North African Hedgehog's snout is somewhat slenderer and more pointed than the European Hedgehog's.

Pet hedgehogs

Comercialization of pet hedgehogs was legal until the approval of Spanish Law 630/2013 of Invasive Species, which included two African species in the list: the long-eared hedgehog (Hemiechinus auritus) and the four-toed hedgehog (Atelerix albiventris). During recent years some citations of these species have been confirmed, specifically of feral four-toed hedgehogs, probably as result of voluntary releases by their owners. The most important difference between these species and their native counterparts is that the thumb of the rear end is completely atrophied in the former. Furthermore, the african species are smaller, whiter and with softer spines (that can be caressed without getting hurt). It should be noted that there is a great variability in their coloring, with some individuals may be extremely similar to North African hedgehog (Atelerix algirus). Teething, for example, follows the same pattern as in North African Hedgehog.