We are now beginning to see exotic Hedgehogs, bred for the pet market, being abandoned or thrown out into the wild. These animals cannot survive on their own. If you see a hedgehog that is any combination of the following at any time of the day or night, please pick it up and get in touch with or take it to a rescue centre, not a vet/RSPCA who may not know what it is they’re looking at. The only exception to that is if the animal is injured in any way in which case follow the guidelines here
If you spot a hedgehog that looks different to the normal hedgehog that you see in your garden, that is likely to be one of these characteristics:
- A different colour –
- pale colouring
- all white
- completely white underbelly
- Multi-coloured, Black & White, Peach, Chocolate,
- Very large ears
- Pink eyes
The exotics are obviously different to somebody who regularly works with our wild species and many of them have contacts with specialist carers.
We are becoming acutely aware that in the UK, the general public, many carers, vets and RSPCA officers cannot tell the difference between wild hedgehogs and hogs bred for the pet market.
This is causing a number of issues. Firstly, wild rescues are getting calls asking for disabled hedgehogs that can “live indoors”. Second, there have been reports of babies being taken from the wild and sold on Preloved as pet hedgehogs. And finally, pygmy hogs are being dumped in the wild when the owner gets fed up with them.
Let’s start with a few facts:
- Pygmy hogs and our wild hogs are completely different species. They cannot interbreed.
- Pygmy hogs need to be kept very warm at all times – around 22 degrees c.
- Pygmy hogs cannot be kept with wild hogs, they are not resistant to native hog diseases.
- Pygmy hogs released into the wild in the UK will die, not if, not maybe, they will die unless found quickly.
- NO reputable rescue will give you a wild hog to keep as a pet.
Both hedgehogs are nocturnal, have spines that can hurt, poo for England and can be extremely smelly if not cleaned out daily.
So for those that care about these little animals, how can you tell the difference? Until you have had up close and personal contact with both species it can be difficult but you need to work it out for the sake of the animal. Luckily there are some fairly reliable clues:
Most pygmy hogs have white belly fur but be careful. You may have your hands on an albino wild hog. Conversely breeders of pygmies are coming up with new colours all the time. You will see them with black markings, usually on the face, but this may change as different colourways emerge.
You cannot use spine colour to tell them apart. Wild hedgehogs are normally a mottled brown and white but there are jet blacks and pure whites and many colours in between. Due to selective breeding of pygmy hogs they are turning up with new colourways every day.
Pygmy hogs are much smaller than wild hogs however this isn’t a reliable comparison especially if you have baby or juvenile hogs.
Pygmy hogs usually have much larger ears than wild hogs. Egyptians and Tenrecs are now being seen in the UK and they have enormous ears. Again this is not 100% reliable. A wild hog with fur loss from ringworm will have prominent ears.
So the most reliable way to tell them apart?
Luckily the feet on both of these animals are completely different. Wild hogs have large feet, long toes and claws as they need to be able to dig in the ground to get at their food. Pygmy hogs on the other hand have been bred from the African species where they scavenge. If they do need to dig it’s in sand so they have tiny little feet and toes. They are pretty much unmistakeable.
Egyptian Hedgehogs are now starting to appear in the UK. These are on first sight very similar to our own wild hogs as the spines are the same colour and you will get a hissing huffing ball which sounds more like a coffee percolator than anything else. Once it uncurls you will be able to see it’s not a wild as the very long ears are obvious, unfortunately by this time you will also have a full set of teeth sunk in your finger. These animals should NOT be sold as pets. They are for the experts only so if you do get one please scream for help immediately.
This post is from information and pictures supplied by Hedgehog Bottom Rescue Centre