Porcupine – diet, habitat, species and size with pictures

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Updated: November 9, 2016

You all might have heard the word “spikes”, isn’t it? A sort of hairstyle! But did you know we humans are not the only ones who are fond of this cool look. The porcupines too are very much fond of this look. They have around 30,000 spikes or quills on their entire body. Being a rodent, it is quite amusing, isn’t it?

So come and explore some untold, yet fascinating facts about the largest rodent in the universe through this article.

Porcupine is a rodent, and among all the rodents the Porcupine is the most prickliest, although the meaning of its Latin name is “quill pig”. It has been found that there is approximately 24 variety of species of the porcupine in the entire world.

The porcupine is so well adapted according to its surroundings that they have been gifted with an interesting coat of quills which are of sharp, needle shaped design. It is helpful in the sense that the quills alert every other animal wanting to attack the porcupine that it is not at all an easy prey. Some of them, like the crested porcupines of Africa have quills as long as 30 cm.

They normally used the spines or quills on their body and tail as a defense from their predators.


Classification and Behavior of Porcupine

The porcupines are a kind of rodent that can be seen in two fundamental locales of the world, they are classified as Old World or New World porcupines by researchers. The Old World ones generally populate the Europe, Asia and Africa; some of the examples are: the African brush-tailed porcupine, the Indian crested porcupine and the  North African crested porcupine, they are some of the few species of porcupines living in these areas.

The New World porcupines are generally found residing in South, North and Central America Mexican hairy dwarf porcupine,Brazilian porcupine and the Canadian porcupine are some of the few examples of the species belonging to the New World porcupines which are found in these regions.

Generally, all the porcupines have been found to be nocturnal and are extremely adaptable according to its surroundings. They have been located in a wide range of habitats and environments, as long as there is enough food and vegetation for the porcupines to eat.

There have been quite a very few distinguishable differences between the New World and Old World porcupines:

Those that have quills on their back which stand up to a height equivalent to that of a crest are the Old World crested porcupines. It starts right from the tip of the head and extends all the way down to its shoulders. All the quill have been naturally marked with unique black and white markings. Whenever threatened, these quills get erected and as a result makes these porcupines look bigger, almost 2-3 times in general.

Little, unbending plumes that are approximately 20 cm in length are thickly stuffed all over the Old World porcupine’s back. These can cut through and stab any enemy when it senses risk or any kind of threat.

Coming to the end of its tail, these porcupines have typically obtuse, empty plumes that clatter when shaken, thus serving as an early warning for the potential enemies.

On the off chance that the clamor cannot come into rescue, they may attempt to charge in reverse into the predator. Whenever debilitated, a peaked porcupine tends to stamp its feet, snarls and snorts to drive away the predator.

It has been found that the quills of the New World ones are approximately 10 cm long and are much smaller as compared to their Old World counterparts.

The tip of each quill is a barb shaped which has a tendency to snag in the flesh,  and it is really painful when the quill get stuck inside the skin, much more when extracting it out of anyone’s skin. If an animal doesn’t have fingers, it will be very difficult for it to remove these quills once they get stuck inside the flesh.

Whenever debilitated or threatened, these New World porcupines erect their quills that bulge out in different headings and directions. They may stop in a protective stance, or they may charge the foe accordingly.

These New World porcupines are also well known for aggressively lashing out at their predators by means of charging and hitting them with their plume loaded tails. Amid battles, New World porcupines likewise babble their teeth to sound wild.


The Majestic Quills

Generally, the Porcupines have been gifted with soft and fluffy hair, but it is not the same with the skin as well.

Due to its extreme adaptation according to its environment, the porcupines are also gifted with sharp, needle-like quills which are present on its back, tail and the side as well. Unless the porcupine is threatened and it senses danger around itself, they tend to keep their quills down and flat. But, whenever it gets scared or senses any predator around itself, it then immediately straightens up all its quills as a measure of self-defense.

It was earlier thought that the porcupine could shoot its predators and prey with its sharp quills, but as time went by, it came to be known that it was just a myth.

However, though the porcupines are unable to shoot down any of its predator or prey with its quills, still all its quills are very easily removable when gently touched.

There have been numerous cases of accidents that the quills are getting stuck to another animal’s bodies. Many of its predators have suffered the attack of the quills and it protrudes from their snouts and bodies. These quills have been equipped with needle-like sharp tips and layered scales which are overlapped on each other. This makes the quills very difficult to take out once they get stuck on other animal’s bodies. It has also been found that the porcupines have a mechanism of growing new quills once the older ones have been plucked off or fallen off.


Behavior and Habitat of Porcupine

According to researchers, the porcupines which are found mainly in the North as well as South American countries show a great talent as they are quite great tree-climbers and mostly spend their time hanging and roaming around on the trees.

It has also been found that some species of the porcupine have been additionally gifted with gripping tails in order to help them climb trees. Among all the species of porcupine currently known to us, the North American breed of porcupines is the one and only species populating the U.S as well as Canada. Another interesting fact regarding the North American porcupine is that it is also the largest species of porcupine known to man.

An average porcupine is found to possess more than 30,000 quills at a time which keep on changing and new ones come out periodically.

In order to satisfy its huge appetite for wood and other related products, the North American porcupine uses its humongous front set of teeth to bite into the wood, further solidifying its status as a rodent.


As a normal rodent, the porcupines have been found to eat mostly natural vegetation, including tree’s bark, stems and are also infamously known to have invaded the camping grounds to bite and chew the tents and canoe paddles. But the North American ones are also believed to eat leaves, flowers and other fruits.

Other than the North American species, porcupine are also found in Africa, Europe and Asia. These creatures are known to stay on the ground and populate the deserts, forests and occasionally, some grasslands.

The female porcupines are found to give birth to approximately two to four newborn porcupines. The new born babies tend to have softer quills at the time of birth, but these soft quills get hardened within a few days after its birth. And at around two to three months of age, these young and newly born porcupines are mature enough to survive on their own and start searching for newer pastures and places to live.


Astounding Porcupine Pictures












The porcupines have a very special tendency to patrol and check their territories during the late night hours in order to protect their homes and other areas from where they get their food.

The porcupines are very noisy while mating. They have been found to have traveled long distances in order to search for its female counterpart and sometimes even to get some salt. It has been normally found out that whenever two adult porcupines are seen roaming together, they are mostly siblings or both of them are mating partners.

So, now the most important question is that how can these porcupines mate without even inflicting any injuries to each other?

The male porcupines compete for a female in the midst of uproarious fights. The victor then cries and steps his tail to awe his female counterpart. In the event that she appears to be intrigued, he splashes her with urine, which flags her to lower her quills and move her pointed tail to the side in order to mate.



Population and Life Span of Porcupine

The normal lifespan of a porcupine is around five to seven years in the wild while in captivity it can reach for up to twenty-one years.

Some porcupines species  are “threatened”, however most species are classified as “Least Concern” because of their large population.

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