As hedgehogs are free to roam when in the wild and can often be called a pest, does that mean that they are rodents or are they part of a different family?
Hedgehogs are not rodents. They are part of the Eruinaceidae family. If hedgehogs were rodents, they would be part of the Rodentia family, instead.
It is a common misconception that anything you don’t want in your garden is a rodent. You probably don’t want rats, and they’re a rodent. Squirrels are likely to be unwanted, and they’re a rodent. So if someone doesn’t want hedgehogs in the garden then they too must be a rodent? Wrong!
Why is a Hedgehog Not a Rodent?
Besides the fact that hedgehogs are biologically part of a different family, there are few obvious differences between hedgehogs and rodents. We’ve outlined each of these major differences below:
There are some major differences between the teeth of hedgehogs and those of rodents. One example is that hedgehogs have pointy canine teeth whereas rodents do not have any canine at all. The molars of hedgehogs also tend to be sharper. This is so that they can chew through meat/insect matter easily.
The other noticeable difference is with the incisors of hedgehogs. A rodent’s incisors continually grow but a hedgehog’s do not. Their incisors tend to be smaller than a rodent’s. Rodents have obvious front incisors which they’ll often use to chew on trees or wood to prevent them from growing further.
If you look at the front teeth of a rodent, they will be large rounded teeth that are suitable for chewing. If you look at the front teeth of a hamster, you’ll see they’re small and pointy, much like fangs.
One noticeable trait of rodents is that they will chew and gnaw on things thanks to those ever-growing incisors. After all, Rodentia comes from the Latin word rodere which means to gnaw.
This is not something that hedgehogs will do.
A cecum or caecum helps a rodent to break down and digest plant matter. The reason that hedgehogs are omnivorous is that they cannot digest plant matter easily and that is because they do not have a cecum like a rodent.
Rodents have a cecum which means they can easily digest plant matter and are often herbivores for this reason. Essentially, rodents will store fibre-rich plant-based food in the cecum while bacteria break down the cellulose.
What Family Does a Hedgehog Belong To?
Hedgehogs are part of the Eruinaceidae family. This is a small family of roughly 17 mammals comprised of hedgehogs, moonrats and gymnure. They are found across Europe and Africa in a variety of environments.
It’s also worth mentioning that porcupines are actually rodents and are not part of the same family as hedgehogs. Although they look similar and have large quills, they are not related in any way.
Are Hedgehogs Marsupials?
Because hedgehogs are often compared to other marsupials, such as opossums, it is often assumed that hedgehogs must also be marsupials. However, hedgehogs are not marsupials.
The main element that makes an animal a marsupial is that they carry their young in a pouch or pocket. This is because a marsupial gives birth to young that are not fully developed and therefore need protection.
This is why it is safe to say that hedgehogs are not marsupials. Hedgehogs have a longer gestation period so their young have far more time to develop. Once they give birth, young hedgehogs are mini hedgehogs and are fully developed
What Classifies Something as a Rodent?
Although hedgehogs are not rodents, there are plenty of animals that are. But what is it that makes them a rodent? Against popular belief, it is not the fact that they are a nuisance in the garden or feared. Instead, there are some biological features that make them a rodent.
So what is it that makes a squirrel, hamster, rat, mouse or beaver a rodent?
- Rodent incisors do not stop growing and are usually larger than the rest of their teeth. You’ll often see a rodent with large front teeth. It is also why rodents often gnaw on things so that they can prevent their incisors from growing any further.
- Their incisors are enlarged, have a large gap behind them and the rear of their incisors is not coated in any enamel.
- They have no canines.
- Rodents have a penis bone.
- They are able to digest plant-based matter easily because they have a cecum.
As you can see, there are a number of elements that place an animal into the Rodentia family and it’s not just whether or not they’re a nuisance or pest.
Are Hedgehogs and Porcupines Related?
Many people see the quills or spikes of hedgehogs and porcupines and instantly assume they must be related. But hedgehogs and porcupines are not related at all. The closest animal to a hedgehog would be a shrew or mole.
Porcupines are part of the Rodentia family, unlike hedgehogs who are part of the Eruinaceidae family.
It is also a common misconception that hedgehogs are baby porcupines but this could not be further from the truth. They are their own species and are not related to porcupines.
Hedgehogs are not rodents. Although many people believe that any animal that is unwanted is a rodent this is not scientifically correct. Hedgehogs are not part of the Rodentia family which would make them a rodent but are part of the Eruinaceidae family.
Also, hedgehogs are not marsupials. They are often compared to animals that are marsupials but they are not one themselves. They are also not related to porcupines even though there are a few visual similarities.