Behind dogs and cats, hedgehogs might just be the nation’s favourite animal. One need only look at the fact there are currently over 2 million hedgehog videos on YouTube to see that people can’t get enough of these little spiky wonders. That’s why we’ve put together some little known facts to help you brush up on your knowledge and keep you clued up with your hog-obsessed friends.

A group of hedgehogs is called an array

You won’t have much chance to see an array for yourself though; hedgehogs are solitary creatures, and usually only come together to mate.

Hedgehogs rely on their hearing and sense of smell

Due to their poor eyesight, hedgehogs depend on their hearing and sense of smell during the daytime when they’re out and about. Because of their nocturnal lifestyle, a hedgehog’s eyesight works better in the dark.

Hedgehogs are illegal as pets in certain American states

Because they qualify as wild animals in some areas, many US states and cities ban people from keeping hedgehogs domestically. This includes New York, Washington, California, Arizona, and Pennsylvania. While they are allowed to be kept as pets in some areas, you need a permit to own a hedgehog. And though it is legal to keep a hedgehog as a pet in the UK, it is generally frowned upon due to their natural inclination toward living in the wild and their survival needs.

Where the name “hedgehog” comes from…

The “hedge” part of the name comes from their preferred habitat of garden hedges. The hog part comes from the pig-like noises they make.

…And what happened to their old name

Before they had their adorable name of today, our spiky friends were referred to as urchins during the Middle Ages. Once they gained their new name, their old one was then used for sea urchins. However, baby hedgehogs, or “hoglets”, are still sometimes referred to as urchins.

Hedgehogs used to be the focus of Groundhog Day

The yearly tradition originally began in Germany and was brought to America by settlers. But because hedgehogs aren’t indigenous to America and hadn’t been introduced to the ecosystem yet, they had to go for the next best thing for their weather predictions, which was a groundhog.

The idea hedgehogs gather food with their spikes is a myth

This idea started when medieval bestiaries and texts began showing hedgehogs gathering food with their spikes, and the image has stuck ever since. However, this is inaccurate, as they usually eat food that they come across as soon as they find it to help build up their weight.

The earliest known hedgehog lived around 58 million years ago

The Litoestes, the ancestor of the modern-day hedgehog, lived during the Palaeocene period and is the earliest member of the hedgehog family discovered so far. The smallest hedgehog in history, the Silvacola Acares, arrived sometime after, as it lived in northern British Columbia 52 million years ago. It was about 2 inches long.

They have an odd practice

When hedgehogs come across toxic substances like poisonous plants, they enact a routine called “anointing”, where they lick the substance until they form frothy saliva, which they then rub on their skin and spines. No one’s exactly sure why they do this; one possibility is that they make themselves taste less palatable to predators, while another is that it works as a kind of olfactory camouflage.

People used to think hedgehogs were witches in disguise

Because people used to see hedgehogs as harbingers of doom in the Middle Ages, this then led to people believing they were witches in disguise during the witch-hunting days. It also led to Shakespeare referencing them in his plays, usually as an insult. You can find the use of hedgehogs in his plays Richard III, Midsummer Night’s Dream and Macbeth.

Bonfire Night may be a fun night for us, but it is one of the biggest risks of the year for hedgehogs. As hedgehogs continue to search for the most secure and safe place for them to hibernate through the winter, they may come across a bonfire and think this is a safe hibernation spot. That’s why we’ve put together a few steps for you to take to help keep your local hogs safe on Bonfire Night.

 

Build your bonfire as close to the celebration as possible

Even though it may be more convenient for you to build your bonfire earlier in the day or even the day before, this will give hedgehogs more time to find their way into the pile of wood and make themselves comfortable. It also means there is more of a risk of more than one hedgehog finding their way into the bonfire. That’s why it’s much safer for you to build your bonfire as close to the start of the evening’s celebrations as possible, giving your local hedgehogs less time to get in the pile.

 

Regularly check your bonfire

As hedgehogs will be looking for the safest, most secure spots possible for hibernation, they will be burrowing themselves into your bonfire as much as possible. That’s why it’s important that you regularly check your bonfire for any hedgehogs who may have gotten in. As hedgehogs tend to hide in the centre and bottom two feet of the bonfire, make sure to check the pile by gently lifting pieces of the wood section by section, making sure not to disturb the hedgehogs too much. You should use a blunt object like a pole to lift the pieces of wood, as using something sharper or harder like a spade or fork could accidentally harm the hedgehog.

If you do find a hedgehog, place it in a high-sided cardboard box with plenty of towelling. Make sure there are air holes in the box before securely placing the lid on the box, as hedgehogs are gifted climbers. Put the box in a safe place away from the bonfire. Once the celebrations are over and the bonfire is completely dampened, you can release the hedgehog under a hedge, bush or behind a stack of logs far away from the remains of the bonfire.

 

Put up chicken wire around the bonfire

No matter how careful and vigilant you are, there’s always a chance of a hedgehog slipping past your notice and getting into your bonfire. That’s why it’s important to take precautionary measures to ensure they can’t get to the pile. You can do this by putting chicken wire around the bonfire to keep hedgehogs out. The wire should be held in place with stakes, with the wire sloping outward at an angle to prevent hedgehogs climbing the wire.

 

Remove all litter and firework debris

It’s a guarantee that there will be a lot of mess after the celebrations are over. With people gathering around to watch the bonfire, there will be litter gathering around the area that could be harmful to not only hedgehogs, but all local wildlife if not properly disposed of. There will also be a lot of firework debris on the nearby grounds that can be harmful too. That’s why it is essential that you properly dispose of litter around the area as soon as the celebrations have finished.

Though they’re just as cute as their elders, hoglets need more care and attention than adult hedgehogs. As they’ve just arrived into the world and haven’t learned the survival instincts they need to last in the wild, hoglets need to be cared for by the mothers until they are ready to go out on their own. That’s why we’ve put together a few tips to help you understand what you should and shouldn’t do if you come across a baby hoglet.

 

Step 1: Do not disturb a hedgehog’s nest

If the mother is disturbed soon after birth, she may desert her hoglets. So if you find a nest in your garden, you mustn’t touch or interfere with it. Any slight disturbance to the nest or the hoglets themselves can cause the mother to abandon them, leaving the hoglets alone without the care they need.

Step 2: Listen out for hoglet cries

If a hoglet has been left or abandoned by their mother, they will most likely stay in or near the nest, as it’s an area that’s most familiar to them. Nests can often be found under sheds or in hedgerows, log or leaf piles and compost heaps. If they are distressed, they will let out a shrill, bird-like piping. If you hear anything like this, search for the hoglet and then search for any other hoglets that may be nearby.

Step 3: Provide warmth to abandoned hoglets

Abandoned hoglets are very vulnerable creatures, and are often found in a poor state. Without their mother providing food for them, they won’t be able to build up their body weight and will need a source of warmth. That’s why if you find an abandoned hoglet, you will need to keep it in a warm room. It should be placed in a small cardboard box or a similar container, lined with a towel. Place a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel in the bottom of the box. Make sure the water isn’t too hot, as it could be uncomfortable for the hoglet to have too much heat. Place the hoglet on top of the wrapped bottle and cover with further bedding. You will need to change the water bottle every few hours to ensure the hoglet has a regular supply of warmth.

Step 4: Take abandoned hoglets to a local hedgehog hospital

Now that the hoglet is out of the cold and in a safe and warm environment, they will need support and nutrition to survive. But without the mother to provide this, they won’t survive out in the wild on their own, and with daily life in the way, you won’t have the time to give the hoglet the proper care and attention it needs. That’s why the next step for you is to take the hoglet to a local hedgehog hospital. There, the baby will be given the daily care and support it needs to grow strong.