Hedgehogs are cute, little things that some people consider pests in their gardens to others keeping them as household pets. If you’ve ever seen one in action, they roll around, move quickly, and are easy to spook. When freaked, they’ll curl up into a little ball and act dead.
They do this to protect sensitive areas on their bodies while tucking their head, limbs, and tail inward. But, if you aren’t familiar with the hedgehog’s biology and anatomy, you may not be able to see things like its tail, when in this curled-up position.
Because of this, some people believe they don’t have tails at all. But this is a mistaken view and, actually, may serve more of an important role in the social and behavioral patterns of hedgehogs than anyone may have ever considered before.
Do Hedgehogs Have Tails?
Table of Contents
- 1 Do Hedgehogs Have Tails?
- 2 How Long is a Hedgehog’s Tail?
- 3 What Do Hedgehog Tails Look Like?
- 4 Do Hedgehogs Wag Their Tails?
- 5 What Do Hedgehogs Use Their Tails For?
- 6 What Are Long-Tailed Hedgehogs?
- 7 Final Thoughts
Yes, hedgehogs do have tails, albeit very diminutive and small. In fact, they’re adorable for a rear-end appendage. This is because it’s often covered by many quills along with fur, so it’s not always easily seen by the human eye. How long they are and what they look like will vary depending on the genera.
How Long is a Hedgehog’s Tail?
All hedgehogs have a short tail when compared to other animals. On average, a hedgehog’s tail is a touch over ¾ of an inch (or 2 centimeters) long. But they can be as small as a wee bit over ¼ of an inch (or 1 centimeter) and no longer than around two inches (or 5 centimeters).
There are even some species, like the Lesser and Greater Madagascar Tenec, where the tail is scant visible. Unless you’re looking at the animal up close, it isn’t visible. Zoologists have categorized these hedgehogs as tailless because of how tiny and minuscule it actually is.
Specific Tail Lengths
Even though there’s an average length for all hedgehog tails, specific types of hedgehogs have larger ones than others. Here’s a list of some of the more popular and common species along with the average range of tail lengths:
- Amur Hedgehogs – around ¼ of an inch to less than 2½ inches (1 to 6 centimeters)
- Bare-Bellied Hedgehogs – around ¼ of an inch to 1³⁄₁₆ inches (1 to 3 centimeters)
- Desert Hedgehogs – about ½ of an inch to 1⅜ inches (1.4 to 3.5 centimeters)
- European Hedgehogs – around ¼ of an inch to 1⅜ inches (1 to 3.5 centimeters)
- Four-Toed Hedgehogs – just under an inch (2.5 centimeters)
- Indian Long-Eared Hedgehogs – slightly less than an inch (2.3 centimeters)
- Long-Eared Hedgehogs – around ¼ of an inch to about two inches (1 to 5 centimeters)
- North African Hedgehogs – just under an inch (2.5 centimters)
- Southern African Hedgehogs – a bit over ¾ of an inch (2 centimeters)
What Do Hedgehog Tails Look Like?
In all species of hedgehogs, their tails appear like small, stubby spikes or nubs covered in or protected by a special set of quills. These narrow, hollow quills mixed with fur make the tail easy to miss if observing a hedgehog in passing.
Unfortunately, it can be mistaken for the penis in males in the event of being able to see the tail. This is especially true when the hedgehog is on its back, because of how it turns up toward the head. But in male hedgehogs, their penis is one the lower-mid area of the abdomen, not at the end of the body.
Do Hedgehogs Wag Their Tails?
Hedgehogs do wag their tails but it’s not to express contentment like a dog or impatience like a cat. It seems its main function is for protection purposes. Plus, it doesn’t move back and forth but rather up and down. But, it isn’t uncommon for hedgehogs to wag their tails from side to side, however rare.
Hedgehog Tail Wagging
If and when hedgehogs do wag their tails, it’s very slight and not immediately noticeable. In the event, you have one as a pet and you see it wagging, it may mean it’s trying to sense danger or some other event because there’s shaking of its immediate surroundings.
They can wag their tails beyond defense as they traverse the ground. Even though not proven, some zoologists theorize the tail can serve as a sort of antenna, which alerts them to danger including predators, natural catastrophes (like hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornadoes) or to indicate how many other animals are present in the surrounding area.
What Do Hedgehogs Use Their Tails For?
When hedgehogs feel threatened by predators, they play dead by turning onto their backs and curling up in a ball. The stiffening of the muscles makes their quills spiky and their tail covers their lower region in this position. This is unlike porcupines, where they have a little rattle at the tip end of their tails to avert predators.
For centuries, humans haven’t really given much thought about the hedgehog’s tail. Most people take it for granted because almost all animals have a tail in some way, shape, or form. But recent research shows that hedgehogs can use their tails for much more than protection and security reasons.
Studies on How Hedgehogs Use Their Tails
Research also suggests that hedgehogs can use their tails to communicate with other hedgehogs. It’s likely they use it to either emit a sonar-type signal or bang it onto the ground. Most notable observations occur between mothers and their young along with use as a warning mechanism.
In regards to body structure, the tail also serves as a means for balance and maneuvering. For instance, if they find themselves stuck somewhere, they can use their bodies in such a way to shimmy and slide their way out. Combined with avid flexibility, hedgehogs can free themselves out of almost any compact situation.
What Are Long-Tailed Hedgehogs?
Although it seems like a plausible addition to the hedgehog family, long-tailed hedgehogs can only live as plush toys for dogs and children. There are such things as long-eared hedgehogs, but there is no such thing as a long-tailed hedgehog in the real world.
Any “long-tailed” hedgehogs would only exist within a specific species. As an example, the Amur Hedgehog can have tails that are no larger than 2½ inches (6 centimeters). But there are no extant species with a long tail that’s extraordinary from the family norm.
Hedgehog tails are a little covered topic and not many people place much importance on it. But this tiny, near-invisible appendage serves a very important role in the life of a hedgehog, providing protection against threats and predators.
Although small, hedgehog tails may also serve a greater purpose for these cute quill creatures than you may have ever suspected. It can possibly act as a sensor for danger, to detect other animals, and to communicate with other hedgehogs. These suggestions propel curiosity about what other mysteries the hedgehogs hold.
If you own one of these as a pet and you see its tail moving, know that it isn’t the same as when other house pets wag their tails. They’re often determining their environment in some way or they’ve found themselves in a narrow, spot they’re trying to get out of.