Southern African hedgehogs are small mammals found in the southern part of Africa. They are covered with spines all over their body except for their face, belly, and ears. These spines are made of keratin protein with a hollow shaft and a muscle for each spine. Unprotected body parts are covered with fur. These small animals are dark brown in color and their spines are typically white at the base and dark brown at the tip. They have pointed snouts and typically have either a white or brown belly. The main characteristic of this type of hedgehog is that they have a white stripe across their forehead, typically, traveling from one leg to the other.
Southern African hedgehogs are found throughout southern Africa, specifically in Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. There are two specific ranges of this hedgehog, a western range including Angola and Namibia and an eastern range, including South Africa, Mozambique, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, and Botswana. Southern African hedgehogs can be found in most environments, however, they prefer grass and Bushveld (sub-tropical woodland ecoregion of Southern Africa) that is not too damp and with a good covering of leaves and other debris. Many of these hedgehogs also live in suburban gardens.
Southern African hedgehogs are solitary, except in the case of females rearing their young. Each individual typically has a home range of 200-300 meters from the area it is living in which commonly is a hole in the ground. Southern African hedgehogs are nocturnal. They will spend most of the day underneath the cover of leaves or under bushes and in holes; only coming out at night to feed. Sleeping places are changed daily with only some wintering and breeding nests being semi-permanent. These hedgehogs are slow movers; however, when threatened, they can move surprisingly fast at 6-7 km/h. They hibernate during the winter. In order to communicate with each other hedgehogs use snuffling, snorting, and growling. They may also butt each other's heads while fighting. When threatened Southern African hedgehogs defend themselves by rolling into a ball, leaving spines to face the enemy.
Southern African hedgehogs are monogamous. This means that both males and females have only one mate during the breeding season. During this time the male walks circles around the female. She will keep on rejecting him for days until she is ready to mate. The breeding season typically occurs in the summer. With a gestation period of around 35 days, the babies are mainly born during the months of October through March. The size of the litters ranges from 1 to 11 babies with an average of 4 hoglets. A newborn hoglet typically weighs around 10g. The young are naked and blind when they are born and are born with infant spines, which are typically shed by the young when they are a month old. The next set of spines that are grown are their adult spines. Hoglets will open their eyes about 2 weeks after birth and they begin to forage with their mother at about 6 weeks. Males take no part in the raising of the young. Southern African hedgehogs can breed multiple times in one year and young reach reproductive maturity at 61-68 weeks of age.
There are no major threats to Southern African hedgehogs at present. However, they are hunted by humans as a source of food. In addition, people believe in some southern African cultures that smoke created from burning their spines and dried meat can keep spirits away. A lot of these hedgehogs are also killed by vehicles.
The IUCN Red List and other sources do not provide the Southern African hedgehog total population size, but this animal is common and widespread throughout its known range. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.