This animal wears an overcoat of sharp quills all around its body that protects him from the predators. The specie is about 25-35 inches long, being about 8 to 10 inch tall and weighing about 12 to 35 pounds on an average. They are large, round bodied and move really slow. The color of porcupines range from brown to grey and white.
Here is a list of some hidden facts about porcupines.
1. Babies are Termed ‘Procupettes’
The tiny ones are called Procupettes. These are born with soft, bendable quills which later harden when they grow old. The mother generally tends to have a single baby at a time but they grow up really fast. In a few species, the Procupettes are capable of living all by themselves in a few months after being born.
2. Quills have Antibiotic Properties
They don’t just hurt their predators but are kind enough to look out for them. The antibiotics in the quills save the predators from infection, but their quills are most likely medicated for their own safety. At some point of time, they might accidentally stab themselves in a variety of situations – like falling out of trees, which seems to happen quite often. So having antibiotic coated quills could save them from the damage and infection.
3. Wonderful Swimmers
The air filled quills on this animal’s back can give them a buoyancy boost as they move through water, just like a permanent water jacket. It’s not just the quills that act as a float for the porcupine, but also it has the stroke of dog paddling.
4. ‘Thorn Pig’ is it’s Literal Translation
The origin of the word porcupine can be traced back to 600 years back which was ‘porke despyne’. From the Latin roots, Porcus means pig and Spina means thorns or spine. There are several other variations of the word in Middle English and modern English. In the play ‘Hamlet’, Shakespeare calls it “porpentine”.
5. The Real Fighters
They have a great means of self defense. By increasing their size, they try to threaten their predators, also they may engage in a fight. Sometimes things get out of control and it’s time to run off. So, their quills get easily detached, and poke into their attackers body. This way the porcupine flees, leaving their attacker with deadly scars.
6. Long Life Span
Among the rodents, porcupines hold the record for the longevity of life. They can live up to 28 years or more. They stand second for living up that long and the first position is bagged by naked mole rats that live approximately for 30 years.
7. Quick Climbers
The baby porcupines learn to start climbing trees quickly, often climbing to accompany their mothers within hours of birth. The mother gives birth to a single baby or up to four at a time. The gestation period is about 112 days long.
8. Life Long Mating
This specie is monogamous in nature. They tend to remain with the same partner for life and give birth to offspring two or three times per year.
9. Well Balanced
They are blessed with prehensile tails. This helps them to keep the balance even on the high trees, as their tails function as a supporting limb.
10. Chatty Animal
They are extremely talkative. They are often heard whistling, grunting, chattering and can even cry like human babies.
11. Useful Quills
The guard hairs are used for the creation of Native American headdresses. The quills are dyed first and then applied with thread to add interest and beauty to various types of leather work including bags and knife sheaths.
12. Eaten as a Meal
They are not a regular menu item in the western culture, but porcupines have been eaten on occasions. Whereas they are popular in Southern Asia. In Vietnam they are prominent food sources which then leads to a significant drop in the population in that region.
13. Don’t Throw the Quills
They are actually released through contact and sometimes they fall out when a porcupine shakes its body vigorously. A new quill grows immediately in its place. Technically they don’t throw the quill, it breaks off at the base when the barns at the top of the quill penetrate something.
14. Ability to Camouflage
Being a nocturnal animal itself, its predators are nocturnal too. The black and white colors of the porcupine protect it. It also helps that all their predators are color blind.
15. Herbivorous Diet
They generally munch on leaves, tree roots, twigs, as well as fruits like berries. In the colder areas, porcupines will scratch the bark from trees during the winter period for food. Porcupines also sometimes eat up farm crops, giving them an evil reputation as pests.
16. Simple Design of Quills
The quills are nothing but thick hair encased in keratin plates. This design enables them to detach from their bodies easily, They can only shed their spine by accident such as when shaking themselves off water. Just as the quills are like hair they can easily grow back like normal hair does.
17. Differences in Old and New World Porcupine’s Reproduction
Old World porcupines had pregnancies for a short span, which could be about 112 days. In contrast, it takes 210 days for the new world porcupine’s pregnancy. Old World porcupines commonly delivered twins and triplets rarely. However, New World porcupines never deliver triplets and have twins only rarely.
18. Unique Defense System
They can spray like skunks too. The north america predators have a strong odour around them which can become unbearable for other animals. The smell isn’t as strong as the skunk but it might get worse when the porcupine gets agitated.
19. Count as Exotic Animals
As appealing as it would seem to have a porcupine as a pet you might just put yourself into legal trouble by doing so. Many countries have made lists of exotic animals, and whether or not people have permission to keep them as pets. For instance Canada allows people in any of its states to keep porcupines as pets.
20. Warnings by Experts
First of all, don’t move too quickly, as it might startle the porcupine and cause it to get defensive towards you. Second, just don’t do anything that could threaten or startle the porcupine. Third, when trying to pick up or just hold a porcupine, wear a set of heavy leather gloves to keep yourself safe. Fourth, begin with holding out your hand for the porcupine to sniff at. If it doesn’t get hostile, then definitely, you can pet it on the head but just be cautious.
21. Don’t Get Along with Other Pets
In general cats and dogs are extremely playful and curious with a porcupine. This might startle the porcupine causing it to lash out. This has led to other pets being covered with spines.
22. Traditional Uses of Porcupine
The people around the Great Lakes and the Native American tribes in New England use pieces of porcupine hair to make porky roach headdresses. Specifically the Native American men wear them during their formal tribal meetings and assemblies. They are also seen harvesting the porcupine’s quills and using them for decorative purposes.
23. Source of Meat
Porcupine is one of the bush meats, eaten not only by the people from the countryside but the cities as well. Scientists have concerns that they might be the cause for diseases too. Some of which could be Ebola or other new diseases about which we have no idea how to deal with today.
24. Symbol for Modern Political Movement
The American Libertarian movement commonly uses the porcupine as its official symbol. It depicts the animal’s passive and peaceful character, while having a solid defense against predators, this earned the admiration of the movement’s members.
Though the animal seems to be dangerous, if you ever encounter a porcupine in the wild or your backyard, don’t worry. As long as you don’t touch it there is nothing they will do to you. As they are extremely sensitive creatures that simply like their space. And they won’t randomly fire at you.
Read also – 39 Interesting Random Facts You Must Know