This section is from the book "The Balance Of Nature And Modern Conditions Of Cultivation", by George Abbey. Also available from Amazon: The Balance Of Nature And Modern Conditions Of Cultivation.
Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus), Fig. 5, is a native of most of the temperate parts of Europe and Asia, and recognised by having the body covered with spines instead of hairs. It belongs to the same family, Talpidae, sub-family Erinacina, as the Shrews, and has a long nose, the nostrils bordered on each side by a long flap, ears short, rounded, naked and dusky; the hind feet have five toes, the upper part of the face, sides, and rump covered with strong, coarse hair of a yellowish ash colour, the back with sharp strong spines of a whitish tinge with a bar of black through the middle. The animal is about 10 in. long, the tail about 1 in. The female produces four or five young at a birth, which soon become covered with prickles.
Fig. 5. - The Hedgehog.
The hedgehog resides in woods, coppices, thickets, hedges, and shrubberies, whence it frequents fields, orchards and pleasure grounds at night in quest of food. This consists of worms, slugs, snails, large insects and larvae, small vermin, roots, especially those of plantain, fallen fruits, and, in season, eggs of ground-nesting wild birds, game, and poultry, also weakly young birds and small animals; indeed, it is very fond of flesh, either raw or cooked. In winter the hedgehog wraps itself in a warm nest, composed of moss, dried hay and leaves, and remains torpid till the return of spring. When attacked by other animals it defends itself by rolling up, and thus exposing no part of the body that is not furnished with spines. It may be domesticated to a certain extent, and has been employed to destroy cockroaches. (See Useful Helps, p. 250.)
Although hedgehogs have been asserted to suck cows and injure their udders, this is equally false with the imputation that they mount fruit trees, and come down with apples, pears, etc., stuck upon their bristles. There is a certainty, however, of the flesh of hedgehogs being good eating, and the skin was formerly used for the purpose of napping cloths. The species found in bone caves (Erinaceus fossilis) is scarcely to be distinguished from the common living species.