The Creation of the African Pygmy HedgehogThe pet that we know as the African pygmy hedgehog does not naturally occur in the wild. The african pygmy hedgehog is a crossbreed between at least two different types of hedgehog (this number is thought by some to be 3 or more species of hedgehog), the Algerian Hedgehog and the Four Toed (White-Bellied) Hedgehog. The Algerian hedgehog is much larger than its white-bellied counterpart weighing up to 1000g, where the white-bellied hedgehog weights between 200-600g.
The Colour IssueWhen the two hedgehogs were first bred it was assumed that their colour patterns would mix and a whole new colour pattern would be produced, but this was not the case. When the hedgehogs were bred, the offspring contained the colour features of one of the two types of hedgehog. In Layman's terms the colour genes of the two hedgehogs were not compatible and could not be mixed and therefor each hedgehog born can only display the color patterns of one of the species that was bred as it's ancestors (Algerian or White-Bellied in almost all cases).
What this MeansThis means that when you receive your hedgehog, it will have either the colour pattern of the Algerian or the White-Bellied hedgehog, but not a mixture of both. So if your hedgie is say Algerian colored he/she is still a mix of breeds but has the color pattern of Algerian. The big differences are Algerian's have a larger more pronounced mask, their skin will have a darker purplish tint to it, their colors are darker and richer, and the skin is much more mottled. So if you put a White Bellied chocolate and an Algerian chocolate side by side the Algerian will appear darker.
Other AspectsWhile the colour patterns could not be mixed many other features of the two hedgehogs could appear with either colour pattern. The Four Toed or White-Bellied hedgehog has as one could assume, four toes. They do not have the vestigial dew claw that the Algerian hedgehog has (giving it five toes). Also the Algerian hedgehog is much larger than its white-bellied counterpart weighing up to 1000g, where the white-bellied hedgehog weights between 200-600g. When these hedgehogs were bred these physical traits got all jumbled up producing a few weird mutations in the hedgehogs.
What this MeansThis means that your hedgehog can have any of the possible combination of the two hedgehogs physical characteristics that does nto have to do with their colour.
Some possible combinations are:
I have an Algerian colored hedgie who has skinny legs and only four front toes. She has no dew claws. I also have another Algerian colored one whose legs are thicker and she has five toes or four toes and dew claws. Pure Algerians also get much bigger than White Bellies. So you may end up with a White Bellied colored hedgehog who is perfectly healthy at 1000 grams.
About African Pygmy HedgehogIt has been said that no other exotic animal has caught the attention of the public quite like the pet hedgehog has. Their spines, friendly and curious nature, as well as that ever-smiling expression have endeared them to millions of confessed hedgehog lovers around the globe.
Hedgehogs of the WestThose in Britain, Europe and parts of Africa have long known about the hedgehogs’ charm. British author and illustrator, Beatrix Potter, although most famous for her story of Peter Rabbit, also wrote the wonderful tale of a hedgehog named "Mrs. Tiggy-winkle", a matronly washerwoman. A British wildlife hospital dedicated to rescuing sick and injured hedgehogs is even named after this delightful character.
Hedgehogs in North AmericaThe interest in hedgehogs doesn't end there, though. Until recently, these remarkable little animals were virtually unknown in North America. But now, thanks to the pioneering efforts of breeders, the African Pygmy Hedgehog is now readily available and can be found in the homes of thousands of happy pet owners. "But why," you may ask, "is there such an interest in hedgehogs as pets?"
Do hedgehogs fit your Schedule?Besides having a peaceful and humorous nature, hedgehogs readily lend themselves to just about anyone's lifestyle and schedule. Being diurnal (awake parts of both day and night) just like house cats, nearly everyone can find a time of day in which to enjoy them. They do not require a great deal of room in which to live and their dietary requirements are very easy to meet and, since they are solitary animals by nature they neither require nor want the companionship of another animal.
FaceThey have adorable little raccoon-like faces, set with beady little eyes and small pointy noses that seem to twitch constantly, checking out the different odors of the room. Depending on the color variation that you choose, their little white faces may or may not have a mask that ranges in colour. Also the nose can very from very light pink to a dark black. Hedgehogs eyes are either black, ruby red or a dark red appearing almost black. Red eyes only occur in the lighter colors and always occur in albinos.
QuillsA hedgehogs back is covered entirely in modified hairs we know as quills. Young hedgehogs will go through a stage of quilling in which they replace their baby quills with adult quills. Although not related to the porcupine, they are sometimes mistaken for them because of the quills that cover their backs. The similarity ends there, however, since these quills are not barbed or nearly as sharp and remain attached to their bodies (except for quilling or infections/mites/dry skin).
When frightened, they can roll up into a tight ball and look very much like a sea urchin.
BelliesTheir little white tummies, on the other hand, are extremely soft and are covered with short, white hair. Some hedgehogs enjoy having their tummies scratched while other cannot stand people touching their stomachs.
GenitaliaOn a male hedgehog the genitalia is contained withing a belly button like sheath on the hedgehog stomach. This penile sheath protects the hedgehogs penis from any foreign matter.
On a female the genitalia is located closer to the anus behind the hind legs.
TailThey have a short, stubby tail, but this is rarely seen since they keep it tucked up close their bodies.
Some hedgehog owners know that their hedgehog needs to sue the washroom when they start to life their tail towards the ceiling while wandering around, and poopy is certain to follow.
BodiesWith their tiny little legs and round bodies, it is a real sight to see them scurry across the floor.
Unlike their much larger English cousins, the African Pygmy Hedgehog (or pet hedgehog) is rather small in size, with the average adult weighing between ½ and 1 ¼ pounds and are 5 to 8 inches long - about the size of a Guinea Pig. There are a few rare adults that will grow to as much as 1 ¾ to 2 pounds (without being fat) while others are as little as 6 or 7 ounces. Breeders are now concentrating on these differences so that someday, we will have a choice between two different sizes of hedgehogs.
Hedgehogs are a naturally plump creatures looking like ( ) when viewed from above. Some thin and athletic hedgehogs appear as | | from above, and an underweight hedgehog appears as if it's sides are making a ) ( shape from above.
See Your Hedgehog's Weight
OdorUnlike hamsters, Guinea Pigs and other small rodents, pet hedgehogs do not give off any appreciable odor and they are easily litter trained. They live much longer than rodents, too. With the proper care and diet, your pet can live to be 4 - 7 years old. Add to all of this the fact that they require no immunization shots and are very disease resistant and you can see why so many people consider hedgehogs to be the perfect pet.
PersonalityThey have a quiet, gentle, disposition that makes them a true delight to own and hold. Each has a distinct personality and will bond to its owner for life. (We are assuming you purchased a socialized pet). They are surprisingly intelligent, fun to play with and are easily entertained. They love to play with tunnels, mazes and specially designed hedgehog wheels. Even something as simple as a toilet paper tube will make a good toy, as they love to stick their heads in them and run about the floor. Despite their solitary nature, they can become very affectionate with their owners and will even enjoying watching TV with you or just snuggling in your lap.
See Hedgehog Behavior and Personalities
TravelBecause they are quiet, they are very easy to travel with. Most people aren’t even aware that a pet hedgehog is nearby. Many hotels that restrict other animals such as cats and dogs will allow hedgehogs. Once trained to a litter box, an adult can pretty well have the run of the house. With its excellent sense of smell, keen eyesight and good memory, it will know where the litter box is and will use it on a regular basis. Because they are not a rodent, they have no body odor, but it is still important to clean the litter box daily to eliminate all smells. Some people are not comfortable with a loose pet, so a cage with a minimum floor area of 16 x 24” will keep it happy and secure.
MaintenanceHedgehogs truly are a low maintenance pet. Your pet hedgehog should be kept indoors at a temperature of 72-78*F; it can be fed a good quality dry cat food or a specially formulated hedgehog food; they don't bark, although when happy, some will emit a quiet purr; they do not climb curtains or chew on furniture; and, they do not ask to be taken out for a walk. All that your pet asks for is to be fed and watered, loved and appreciated. Besides simply being enjoyed as pets, there is also an active hobby.
See Food, Heating, Hedgehog Behavior and Personalities, Handling
Standard of PerfectionThanks to the efforts of the hard-working folks at the International Hedgehog Association, (IHA) there is now a working show system and standard of perfection for the pet Hedgehog. Breeders and pet owners alike can now show their pets in friendly competition. As well, many breeders are involved in the fascinating and challenging world of color breeding. Many beautiful new colors have already been produced and many breeders are hard at work to produce even more. This adds a whole new dimension to owning hedgehogs and even those with only one or two animals are becoming actively involved.