Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Not long ago, the zoo here in Kansas City got two African Crested Porcupines.  One of them is named Titon, and he is 1-1/2 years old.  His brother is named Bic, and he is one year old.  Mom went to the zoo to see these porcupines, and also to see a bunch of other animals.  When she saw the two porcupines, they were taking a nap, all snuggled up together.  You might wonder how a porcupine can snuggle, and I will tell you:  very carefully!  Hahahaha!  Anyway, Titon and Bic were sleeping close together, side by side, so I guess you could call that snuggling.  Personally, I think there are a lot of things I would snuggle with before I would snuggle with a porcupine!

Anyway, I decided that since this type of porcupine comes from Africa, where my distant cousins, the basenjis live, maybe I should learn more about them.  So I did some research, and I found out that the scientific name for crested porcupines is Hystrix cristata.  The North African crested porcupine is the largest porcupine on earth and one of the largest rodents.  It is between 25 and 29 inches long, and weighs from 18 to 51 pounds.

The reason this porcupine is called "crested" is because it can raise up the quills on its back to make a crest if it feels threatened.  Also it can rattle its tail, kind of like a rattlesnake does, and all the quills on its tail will make a noise to warn everybody to stay away.

There are crested porcupines in Italy, North Africa, and sub-Saharan Africa.  They can adapt to almost any kind of area, including deserts, forests, plantations, and mountains.  They like to live in places like caves, holes in the rocks, or burrows that they dig.  A female crested porcupine usually has one litter a year.  She has one or two babies, and they weigh only 3% of what she does.  The babies' spines are soft at first, but by one week of age, they have started hardening, which is when the baby porcupines leave the den.

The mom and dad porcupines raise the babies together, and everybody lives in a little family group.  Porcupines go out at night to look for food, and what they like to eat is mostly plant stuff such as roots, bulbs, and crops.  But sometimes they also eat insects, small vertebrates, and carrion.  Porcupines like to collect bones and carry them back to their den.  Then they chew on the bones to sharpen their incisors and to get calcium.

If a crested porcupine feels threatened, like for instance by a lion who is looking for a porcupine lunch, the porcupine will stamp its feet, raise its crest, and run backwards at its attackers.  Some people think that porcupines can shoot their quills, but this is not true.  What they do is run the quills into the attacker, and then the quills come loose and stick in the other animal.  This can be very bad because the quills are barbed, and they are hard to get out.  So if you get stuck, you might get an infection and die.  Or else you might starve to death because you can't hunt.

There are a lot of crested porcupines still left in the world, so there is no danger that they will go extinct anytime soon.  I think they are kind of weird and interesting to look at, but I definitely want to keep a good, safe distance from them!


  1. Why is that small human so close to the porcupine in that pic? I'm sure porcupines are a "no touch" sort of animal. Mom says there are touchable animals and nontouchable animals at the zoo. Most of the animals at the zoo are nontouchables, but the zoo where mom used to volunteer at had a few touchable ones like alpacas. I don't really know for sure though because dogs aren't allowed at the zoos, even famous dogs like my brother Digital the brindlewonderkid can't go in. I think the zookeepers are afraid that us basenjis would steal all the attention

    Your friend Zest, superstar in training

  2. I wondered about this same thing because it seems like it would be very dangerous for the small human to be so close to the big, quilly porcupine! Mom says that at our zoo here, there are some animals that it's okay to touch, like for instance goats and sheep and llamas. But the porcupines are in an exhibit behind a glass wall, so there's no way to touch them. Maybe the parents of the little kid are just stupid, like the parents who let their kids hug dogs they don't know or crawl around on the floor next to the dog's food dish, which happened a couple of weeks ago here in KC when a 10-month-old baby got her head all bitten by a boxer because she (the baby) was crawling over to the dog dish.

    Anyway, getting back to zoos, they allow New Guinea Singing Dogs in zoos and also African Hunting Dogs, so it seems like basenjis should get to go in, too. I think I read someplace that when basenjis were first brought out of Africa, people thought they were exotic and put them in zoos. Which is not where basenjis should live, if you ask me. But visiting the zoo would be fun, I think.

    Your friend, Piper

  3. Awwwwww, I love porcupines. They're sort of like hedgehogs. They're very, very cute but you have to be very careful around them! No need to get a hand full of quills! My cousin owned a hedgehog who was very cute and was very soft but needle-y feeling, if that makes sense. She was very nice, as long as you didn't scare her (or wasn't a he? I don't remember...)

    The little girl may be able to go to the porcupine because it was a different zoo and it was in the wrong place OR it was a monitored visit and the children were allowed to look but not touch. I've seen a lot of animals really up close (eagles, falcons, snakes, and alligators...which was very scary) and been not allowed to touch them. It was part of an education program run by the government in the state I lived in at the time. It was fun, actually. I loved it, except for meeting the alligator. I didn't care if it were in a cooler; it scared me!

  4. I think alligators are very scary, and I wouldn't want to meet one close-up, even if there was bullet-proof glass in between us! I just don't like to think about how an alligator could eat a basenji in one big gulp!

    My mom has seen hedgehogs, and she says they are very cute and funny to watch. Mom likes cuddly pets better, though, such as dogs and cats!

    Your friend, Piper

  5. Hello Piper, I'm a new follower from Africa, the home of the Ystervark (Crested Porcupine)

  6. Dear Geoff,
    I am very glad to have you be a new follower of my blog. You must be a very special person since you live in Africa, where all my distant basenji cousins live!
    Sincerely, Piper