The Four-toed hedgehog is a species of a hedgehog that is found in central and eastern Africa. These small animals can vary greatly in coloration, but typical have brown or grey spines with white or cream colored tips. The fur on the body is speckled grey in color, with brown around the muzzle, and white face, legs, and underparts. These hedgehogs have short legs, a short tail, a long nose, and small beady eyes. As their common name implies, Four-toed hedgehogs typically have only four toes on each foot, lacking the hallux.
Four-toed hedgehogs are found across a wide swathe of central Africa, from Gambia and Senegal in the west, to Somalia in the east, and also in eastern Africa, as far south as Mozambique. They live in grassy environments or open woodland. Because these small animals prefer to shelter in dry rocky or grassy areas, they avoid dense forest and swampland.
Four-toed hedgehogs are solitary, nocturnal animals. They generally move along the ground, but may climb and swim when the need arises. They are highly energetic, sometimes covering miles of ground in a single night during foraging. These hedgehogs prefer temperatures between 24 and 30 °C. When it is hotter than that, they find shelter in a burrow and go into a state of estivation, or when it is colder they goe into a state of hibernation in order to conserve energy. Four-toed hedgehogs communicate witht he help of snorts, hisses, and a quiet twittering sound. When attacked, they can scream loudly, and males also produce a birdlike call during courtship. When threatened, these animals tense up all the muscles on their back to cause the spines to stand erect, and then roll into a ball protecting their limbs and head. If they are harassed further, they will twitch in an attempt to jab spines into the predator and make snuffling/grunting noises. When Four-toed hedgehogs are introduced to a new or particularly strong smell, they will sometimes do a self-anointing. They create a large amount of foam by combining the aromatic substance with their saliva, and spread it onto its spines.
Four-toed hedgehogs are omnivores, mainly insectivores. They feed on insects, grubs, snails, spiders, some plant matter, and even small vertebrates. They have a high tolerance for toxins and have been recorded consuming scorpions and even venomous snakes.
Little is known about the mating system in Four-toed hedgehogs. The breeding season usually occurs during the rainy season, when food is most abundant. Females give birth to a single litter each year, which contains 2-10 hoglets, with 4-5 being most typical. Gestation lasts 30-40 days, and young are born in a well-lined nest cavity. They are covered in a thin membrane to protect the mother from their already present spines. At birth, hoglets weigh about 10 grams (0.35 oz) and are blind and helpless, with only soft spines and no other fur. The eyes open at 15 days, when the young begin to become more active. Hoglets are weaned by 6 weeks and leave the mother not long after. They can become reproductively mature at 2-3 months of age, although in the wild they will not typically breed during the first year of life.
At present, there are no major threats to Four-toed hedgehogs.
According to IUCN, the Four-toed hedgehog is locally common and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.