home   about   search

biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Atelerix frontalis (South African hedgehog)

hegehog [English]; krimpvarkie, Suid-Afrikaanse krimpvarkie [Afrikaans]; Südafrikanischer Igel [German]; hérisson d' Afrique du Sud [French]; inhloni [isiNdebele] [isiZulu]; intloni, umahau [isiXhosa]; thlong, hlong [Sepedi]; thlong [Sesotho]; tlhông, setlhông [Setswana]; shoni [Sho]; indvundvundvwane, indvundvwane [siSwati]; nhloni, xitlhoni, xihloni [Zitsonga]; tshitoni, thoni [Tshivenda]; !Noaros [Nama] [Damara]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Synapsida (mammal-like reptiles) > Therapsida > Theriodontia >  Cynodontia > Mammalia (mammals) > Placentalia (placental mammals) > Laurasiatheria > Eulipotypha (shrews and hedgehogs) > Family: Erinaceidae (hedgehogs)

Atelerix frontalis (South African hedgehog)

Atelerix frontalis (South African hedgehog), Palmwag, Namibia. [photo Dan Rosenberg ©]

See Flickr for the original image.


The small body size and body covering of sharp spines are characteristic of the hedgehog. The spines typically 2-3 cm long, are modified hairs that extend from the forehead to the back of the rump. They are white at the base and the tip with a dark-brown or black band in the middle. The underside of the animal, its face, legs and tail are covered in hair.


Body length 20cm and body mass of 400g.

Distribution and habitat

Two separate populations in southern Africa, one in Namibia and the other extending from the eastern Cape north to Zimbabwe and eastern Botswana. Found in a wide range of habitats, but not in desert or high-rainfall areas.

General behaviour

Hedgehogs are solitary animals and are primarily nocturnal, during the day they rest amongst dry vegetation and leaf litter or in the burrows of other species. They hibernate during the cold winter months, although they need to wake up regularly every few weeks to feed and urinate.

When alarmed hedgehogs rollup in a tight ball, with the spines protecting the vulnerable head and underparts. Well-developed muscles just beneath the skin tighten the skin around the body, erecting the spines. This defense is so efficient that hedgehogs have few natural predators. Some of the larger owl species are efficient hedgehog predators and are able to “shell” the hedgehog with their large claws. Although hedgehogs usually move around slowly they are capable of moving quickly when the rise up on their long legs.


Varied diet includes large proportion of invertebrates (such as insects, millipeds, earthworms, etc), mice, lizards, fungi and some fruit.


Hedgehogs are born after a 35 day long gestation period with the spines just below the skin. This is to prevent damaging the mother’s birth canal. The white spines emerge from beneath skin within a few hours of birth. Up to nine young may be born in a litter but the average is four, the young are deaf and blind at birth. By six weeks they have a set of adult spines and are ready to be weaned.

Life span

6-7 years


The numbers of hedgehogs have declined in some areas, this is probably due to a combination of the following factors, use of the skin and spines for traditional medicine, road mortality, predation by people, capture for pets, habitat destruction, harmful farming practices and maybe climatic factors too.