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)
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
The North African Hedgehog's snout is somewhat slenderer and more pointed than the European Hedgehog's.
Hybrid hedgehogs (Atelerix algirus x albiventris)
The availability of Atelerix algirus x albiventris hybrids on the market has made the in-field identification of hedgehogs a bit more difficult. Unfortunately, there have already been a few reports of this pet animal in the wild. These hybrids have most likely been released voluntarily by their owners. The most important difference between them and their congeners is the fact that the hybrids’ halluces are completely atrophied. These animals are also smaller and whiter, and their spines are weaker and shorter (they can be petted without getting pricked). Nevertheless, it is worth noting they come in a very wide range of colours, some of which are strikingly similar to autochthonous North African Hedgehogs. The dentition also follows the same pattern as in Atelerix algirus.