Johnny Magory - Hedgehog

Hedgehog – Gráinneog

Young hedgehogs are called ‘pups’ or ‘hoglets’. The average lifespan is 3 years but they can live up to 10 years. Hedgehogs have poor eyesight but a great sense of smell – so good that they can even smell the scent of an earthworm underground. Hedgehogs can swim but can become trapped in pools and ponds with steep sides.

As many as 500 fleas live amongst a hedgehogs’ spines! Hedgehogs can wander for up to 3 km a night in search of food. The Latin for ‘hedgehog’ is Erinaceus which means ‘spiky wall’. The Irish word for hedgehog is ‘gráinneog’ – meaning ‘horrible one’! Hedgehogs occasionally perform an unusual ritual of ‘self-anointing’.

This occurs when they come across a strong or an unfamiliar scent. The hedgehog will lick and bite the source and then form scented frothy saliva which it pastes over its spines with its tongue. Some believe that this ‘anointing’ camouflages the hedgehog with the scent of the area and possibly provides a poison or a source of infection to predators that come into contact with its spines.

Apart from the nine species of bat, the hedgehog is the only Irish mammal that undergoes true hibernation usually from October to March. Watch our Wildlife Wednesday Video here for more fun facts