Porcupine vs Hedgehog: 8 Main Differences Explored

Written by AZ Animals Staff
Published: August 30, 2021
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With one look at the collection of quills on their backs, you’d think the porcupine and the hedgehog are related. However, while they’re both mammals, they have a lot of notable differences.

A significant difference between these two relates to their quills. One of these animals has a lot more of them! Also, these two animals are from different continents. The type of diet eaten by hedgehogs and porcupines is different as well.

Are both of these animals classified as rodents? Is one more aggressive than the other against predators? Learn the answers to these questions while you discover more about these two quilled creatures.

Comparing Porcupine vs Hedgehog

HedgehogPorcupine
Length:4-12 inches25-36 inches
Weight:5-56 ounces10-28 pounds
Number of Quills:5,000 quills30,000 quills
Quill Length:Approx. 1 inch2-3 inches
Lifespan:3-8 yearsUp to 27 years
Diet:InsectivoreHerbivore
Place of Origin:Europe, AfricaNorth America
Defensive Stance:Rolls into a ballPushes quills at predators

The 8 Key Differences Between Porcupine and Hedgehog

1. Length

Size accounts for one of the biggest differences between porcupines vs hedgehogs. Porcupines are much longer than hedgehogs. Adult porcupines can be 20 to 36 inches long. Plus, they have a tail that measures 8 to 10 inches. Alternatively, an adult hedgehog is 4 to 12 inches long with a tail around 2 inches.

2. Weight

A size comparison between these two animals must include weight as well as length. An adult hedgehog is much lighter than an adult porcupine. A full-grown hedgehog weighs from 5 to 56 ounces. On the other hand, an adult porcupine can weigh from 10 to 28 pounds.

3. Number of Quills

Some biologists have gotten close enough to both porcupines and hedgehogs to estimate the number of quills on these mammals. It turns out that a porcupine is not only larger in size, but it also has more quills than a hedgehog. A porcupine has around 30,000 quills compared to the 5,000 quills of a hedgehog.

4. Quill Length

Porcupines and hedgehogs have quills that differ in length. The quills of a porcupine are 2 to 3 inches long. A hedgehog’s quills, also known as spines, are about one inch long. Some people keep hedgehogs as pets. This is because a hedgehog’s quills are not as long and dangerous as a porcupine’s.

One porcupine called the African crested porcupine has quills that grow to a length of 13 inches. That’s a little more than one foot!

5. Lifespan

There is a tremendous difference between the lifespan of a porcupine and a hedgehog. Hedgehogs have a lifespan of 3 to 8 years. Hedgehogs can live as long as 10 years in a zoo environment. Porcupines have a lifespan that goes up to 27 years. Scientists believe porcupines are some of the longest-living rodents in nature.

6. Diet

The diets of these two animals are filled with different things. Porcupines are herbivores. They eat leaves, plants, and the bark of pine, elm, fir, and other types of trees. European hedgehogs are known as insectivores. They eat caterpillars, slugs, beetles, and snails.

The South African hedgehog is a little bit of an exception. It eats insects and sometimes lizards and frogs as well. It’s considered an omnivore.

7. Place of Origin

Porcupines are native to North America. They live in the northeastern and the western area of the U.S. North American porcupines are also seen in Alaska and Canada.

Hedgehogs are from Europe and the northern part of Africa. There are some pet hedgehogs in the U.S. though they are illegal to own in some states.

8. Defensive Stance

It’s no surprise that the quills of both of these animals serve as protection against predators. The difference comes in how they use their quills against a threat.

When a hedgehog encounters a predator such as a ferret or an owl, it rolls up into a ball. It essentially transforms itself into a ball of quills. Most predators are not likely to want to touch a rolled-up hedgehog.

When a porcupine meets a predator such as a fisher cat or a coyote, it pushes up its back and points its quills at the threat. These rodents also wave their tail at a predator to stick them with quills.

There’s a widespread belief that a porcupine can shoot its quills at a predator. This isn’t true. But, the quills of a porcupine come loose from its body fairly easily. The lightest touch from a predator can cause quills to become stuck in their snout, paws, or another part of their body. These quills are very difficult, if not impossible for the injured animal to remove. So, if you see a fisher, a coyote, or even a domesticated dog with long quills stuck to its nose, you know it had a run-in with a scared porcupine.

Next Up: What Eats Spotted Lanternfly: Do They Have Predators?

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About the Author

AZ Animals is a growing team of animals experts, researchers, farmers, conservationists, writers, editors, and -- of course -- pet owners who have come together to help you better understand the animal kingdom and how we interact.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is the difference between a hedgehog and a porcupine?

Hedgehogs are smaller in size than porcupines in both length and weight. Secondly, while porcupines are rodents, hedgehogs are not categorized as rodents. Porcupines have more quills than a hedgehog and a porcupine’s quills are longer. In terms of diet, a hedgehog is categorized as an insectivore while a porcupine is considered an herbivore.

Is a hedgehog related to a porcupine?

No, these two animals aren’t related. In fact, a hedgehog is closely related to shrews and moles. Porcupines are related to other rodents including rats, mice, and beavers.

Which is larger a hedgehog or a porcupine?

Porcupines are far and away much larger than even the largest species of hedgehog.

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