The hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) is very useful in the garden. It is a major pest repeller that eats many harmful insects like caterpillars. It measures 187 to 310mm, has a tail of 18-44 mm and is 12 to 20 cm high. It weighs 258 to 1375 grams, and just before hibernation to 1,500 grams.

egelThe back and flanks are covered with 5,000 to 8,700 gray brown spines (depending on the hedgehog and the counter) of 15 to 25 mm long and about 1 mm wide. Each pin is hollow and is composed of several layers of keratin (insoluble fibrous protein of nails, calluses, feathers).
The spines can last to 18 months, which is three times as long as an average hair. Over most of his body is a dome shape tail - back muscle that contracts when the tiny facial muscles tighten. So he rolls up into a spiny ball for protection.
While walking he keeps his about 10 cm long legs bent so that the stomach stays low to the ground. On each leg are five toes with claws.
In his track (rear foot: 25 mm wide, 40 to 45 mm long, front foot: 25 to 30 mm wide, 40 mm long) are usually all fingers and toes visible. Hedgehogs can run pretty fast up to two meters per second. At night they can sometimes take a few kilometers. Hedgehogs are good swimmers but sometimes they drown in garden ponds with steep banks.

The hedgehog has excellent hearing and sense of smell so he can smell insects that are three centimeters below the earth. The eyes are developed worse, he is nearsighted. He has 36 teeth.

He can in a few hours eat more than eighty earthworms and / or beetles and consume 50 to 70 grams (forty snails) in one night.
Beetles are bitten before they are eaten. Worms are swallowed alive. Also millipedes, snails, spiders and woodlice his lust. He has a preference for softer invertebrates.
Hedgehogs are insectivores, but also eat apples, eggs, berries, frogs, birds, shrews and moles, snakes.

It is sometimes argued that hedgehogs rob eggs and chickens.
Eggs should be small. A chicken is too large for the mouth of a hedgehog.
When they see the opportunity they also take and eat birds. And if they find a dead chicken, they will also (from behind) corrode it. But killing chickens (plural)? A hedgehog stomach is not so tall.

The hedgehog is remarkably resistant to multiple types of poison. So he may stand 35 to 45 times better against viper- and wasp venom than a comparable guinea pig for example. Wasps and bees do not harm him. He can take a dose of arsenic that would kill twenty people.

He lives solitary and is especially active in the twilight.
Hibernation lasts in temperate regions from about October to March or April.
If the temperature drops below 10°C the hedgehog makes a nest, a lot of loose dry leaves with a diameter of about 50 cm. I have on several occasions found some at seven in the autumn in the compost heap.
The body temperature decreases during the hibernation from 36°C to 10°C. By switching off his energy supply, his body temperature in his hole drops to the ambient temperature of sometimes 5 degrees C. The heartbeat slows from 200 to 9 per minute, breathing from 50 to 4 per minute. This way, he uses almost no reserves. At +6 degrees he slowly wakes up, but cannot respond yet. He can therefore starve. Only from 12 degrees he will be mobile again.

The mating season lasts from April or May to July. After a long and noisy lovemaking follows a prudent mating.
The gestation period is 31 to 39 days. Most young are born in June.
There is usually only one litter per year (in June) from three to six offspring of 10 to 25 grams.
In the first month mortality is high (20-55%). A hedgehog female has five pairs of nipples.

The main enemies are badger (Meles meles), polecat (Mustela putorius), fox, starvation during hibernation and especially cars. 

In case of danger, the hedgehog rolls into a ball. The cunning fox has a trick: he turns it around and pees his booty. Or roll him through a puddle. In order not to drown and escape, the hedgehog unrolls.

The average life expectancy is four to seven years, with a maximum of up to ten years.

The spine coat is difficult to care for hedgehogs which suffer from many parasites: ticks, mites and fleas.

Cow's milk is bad for hedgehogs, the lactose in milk deliver them severe diarrhea.

Nomads find him, baked in clay, a delicacy. In German Gypsies are nicknamed "Igelfresser" (hedgehog eaters). Hedgehog a la gitane could be this: kill the animal, take out guts and let it burn on its back in the hot axes of a fire. Spines and skin blister into a casserole (sometimes add some water) that you can empty.

"Error!" said the hedgehog and got off the brush.