African Crested Porcupines


Babies w/bottles
These 5 week-old babies love their ba-ba but also ALREADY eat solid foods.

There are two families or porcupines, Hystricidae (Old World Porcupines) and Erethizontidae (New World Porcupines). There are many similarities between the two families, but for this text, we will consider only the African Crested Porcupine. They inhabit deserts, grasslands and adjoining forests.

Order: Rodentia
Family: Hystricidae
Genus: Hystrix
Species: Cristata or Africaeaustralis

They have a stocky body with short legs. Their body, head and tail are covered with a coating of hair and a variety of bristles and quills. The africaeaustralis is larger with longer, heavier quills. Their quills are not barbed as they are in the New World Porcupines. The quills are of varying length and diameter but some of these quills can be as long as 15 inches and 3/8" in diameter. They have the ability to rattle their quills when alarmed. This species has rattle quills in its tail that are larger and hollow on the end furthest from the body. These quills are hollow and produce a hissing rattle when the tail is vibrated. If you wish to purchase some quills see Quills For Sale.

Their tail is short in comparison to other porcupines. They have four clawed digits on the forefeet and five digits on the hind feet. Their dentition is i1/1, c0/0, p1/1, m3/3 x 2 for a total of 20 teeth. They are black in color with white rings on the quills and a crest on the head. Their normal body temperature is 99-100 degrees F.

Females have 2-3 pairs of teats in two rows located just behind the shoulders, on the side of the chest. The male has no external scrotum. The penis can be palpated through the skin in the area just anterior to the anus. Breeding normally takes place from March to December in the wild but in captivity, it takes place all year round. Their estrus cycle is about 35 days and gestation is from 93 to 112 days. The litter can be from one to four can be two babies. They are born with their eyes open and soft quills. The mother is very dedicated and will protect her baby with great ferocity. They weigh 12 oz. at birth and nurse for about 3-1/2 months. Sexual maturity is at 9 to 18 months.

Mating can understandably be quite a ritual. The female must be receptive or she will act very aggressively towards a courting male. If she is receptive, the male begins by standing motionless in front of the female. He approaches her and retreats back and forth over and over making vocalizations to her. When she decides the time is right, she put her tail up and he mounts by clasping her sides with his front paws and balancing on his hind feet. They are mainly terrestrial and nocturnal in habit. They inhabit crevices, caves or burrows, mostly dug by other animals. They usually drag leaf and plant material into their nest. In the wild they eat vegetable matter and some carrion. They enjoy gnawing trees, bushes and bones. They shuffle as they run and can gallop if necessary. They are good swimmers and can climb if necessary. This species has quills that are used as ornaments and talismans. They hunted for their meat and are considered agricultural pests in many areas where they damage crops and trees by chewing the bark. The New World porcupines have an average live span of 10 years while Old World porcupines live an average of 20 years.

Although these animals usually forage alone, they may be found in small family groups in their den.

In captivity

Enclosures for captive adult animals should be have no more than 2" x 4" openings, and should prevent escape by climbing, by using a cover. Provide a place they can hide, like a dog igloo or tunnel made of wood. Or stack hay bales up to form a wall in an inside enclosure. Avid chewers they will prune anything possible.

  • 1/2 cup monkey chow
  • 1/2 cup dog food
  • 1/4 cup sweet horse feed
  • 1/2 cup rodent block
  • 2 tbs. sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup cracked corn
  • Fresh vegetables/fruits: carrots, sweet potatoes, cabbage, greens, apples, pears, etc.

    Free choice hay and non-toxic branches (willow, birch, etc.)

    Purina Lagomorph, Purina Mazuri Browser and Purina Mazuri Omnivore Zoo A Diets and rodent block can be added. The browser diet is a good source of the type of fiber the porcupine eats in the wild
    Mom and twins
    This mom has two new babies. Their bodies are about the size of a goose egg when born.

    We hesitate to list quantities because individuals vary according to size, sex, maturity, activity level, stage of pregnancy or lactation. Use this only as a guide, and monitor the animals weight and appetite. If the animal is gaining too much weight, reduce the portion of food across the board, not one or two items. Pregnant or nursing mothers will need a larger portion, sometimes 2-3 times the normal diet for that individual.

    Porcupines have a craving for salt and will gnaw on anything that may contain it such as worn gloves, shovel handles, etc. Furnish them with trace mineral salt sprinkled on their food or provide a trace mineral salt block. Be sure that they are not consuming too much salt if you put in a block.

    In addition to the normal diet, all rodents MUST have something non-toxic to chew on such as willow or birch branches. Check with your county extension agent or poison control center if you wish to feed branches from trees you do not know are absolutely safe. If they do not have chewies, their teeth will not wear down properly and can grow extremely long causing injury to the roof of their mouth and other mouth parts.

    Infants can be hand-reared using Esbilac with added vitamins. At one week of age, we blend in one cup of cooked, peeled sweet potato per quart of Esbilac. We mix the Esbilac 1 part powder to 2 parts water. We use a cross cut nipple to handle the thicker liquid. Be sure to eliminate any lumps or the nipple will get clogged. They should be kept at 75 degrees F. Feed every three hours until 3 weeks old, day and night. The next two weeks increase feedings, and decrease number of times per day, eliminating night feedings. From three days of age, offer solids including grass hay, romaine lettuce, grains, bread, rodent pellets, bark, roots, nuts, berries, fruits. When eating well, at about 10 weeks, eliminate milk.

    A slip nylon collar can be used as a guide from 1 to 2 weeks of age. Be certain that the baby is getting proper air and above all - be gentle!

    Some babies are slightly more resistant to handling. On these babies or ones we leave with the parents until 2 weeks, we pick up the baby with a doubled bath towel and cradle it with its feet pointing downwards and its head level. Offer the nipple. If it does not take the nipple, insert it into the mouth between the incisors and molars and rub it against the roof of the mouth.

    Additional Photos:

    Punk Rock or body piercing anyone?


    African Crested Porcupines


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