Posted: December 2, 2014, 2:25 p.m. EST
If you are looking for a small animal companion that has the most literal common name, look no further than this memorable mammalian member of the order Erinaceomorpha, subfamily Erinaceinae. This little critter has been around a long time. In fact, its common name is said to be a derivative of the Middle English word heyghoge, with heyg being Middle English for "hedge” and hoge translating to "hog” in modern English. Put the two words together, and you have an animal that prefers to be around the hedges and has a hoglike snout — the one and only hedgehog.
Which begs the question, why did Middle-English scribes neglect to include an obvious physical feature that sets the hedgehog apart? Apparently the stiff, hollow, tough-as-nails keratin hairs that give the hedgehog its memorable look were left out of the name game. One can only surmise that "hedgespineyhog” or "hedgespikeyhog” would be too much of a tongue twister! At least the collective noun for a group of hedgehogs appears to pay homage to the spikey look — put a few hedgehogs together and you have a prickle! You can also call that spiked critter gathering an array.
Atelerix albiventris is another term hedgehog enthusiasts might be familiar with, as that is the scientific name for the African pygmy hedgehog, which is one of the most common hedgehog species kept as a pet in the United States. It is also referred to as the four-toed hedgehog — another literal meaning because it has four toes. A. algirus, or the Algerian hedgehog, is another species that is commonly kept as a pet.
Popular Hedgehog Names
When it comes hedgehog pet names, two monikers in particular seem to be natural fits — Spike and Sonic, at least according to a sampling of hedgehog names on SmallAnimalChannel.com. Spike needs little explanation, and there are also many related names, such as Brissle, Prikles, Quillby and Spines. Sonic is surely inspired by the immensely popular title character of the Sonic the Hedgehog series of comics, animated TV show and video games by Sega. There are also some endearing, if ironic, hedgehog names like Cuddles, Snuggles — no doubt based more on personality than physicality. Roly Poly, Rolyer and Roller are names that hint at the hedgehog’s propensity to roll up into a tight ball as a defensive stance.
If you need to be pointed in the right direction (pun intended) to find a great hedgehog name, there are some notable names to glean from in folklore, literature and popular culture. Hans My Hedgehog is a German fairytale from the Brothers Grimm collection, and Watership Down, the Richard Adams classic novel about bunnies, includes the character Yona, a mythical hedgehog. Rudyard Kipling has a hedgehog character written into his Beginning of Armadillos short story (part of his Just So Stories compilation) — its main character is a hedgehog named Stickly-Prickly. Hedgehogs have also appeared on the big screen. The 2010 animated feature Toy Story 3 has a supporting character named Mr. Pricklepants, a stuffed toy hedgehog voiced by Timothy Dalton. And if you’re a fan of The Hobbit book and movie you might like the name Sebastian, as that is the name of the pet hedgehog that belongs to the wizard Radagast the Brown.
© Sebastian Duda/iStock/Thinkstock
Hedgehog names can be inspired by their look, their personality, their family, pop culture and many other sources.
Hedgehog Name Systems
For Gail Dick, owner of Millermeade Farm’s Critter Connection Learning Center in Montpelier, Ohio, a hedgehog name can be inspired by ancestry, which makes tracking bloodlines easier. "All of our breeding stock and babies have names and are named after the first letter of their sire’s, dad, name,” Dick said. She also enlists a baby names book to help narrow down her name, much like many parents-to-be do. "Each name has to be unique for our database so each name is special. We look at the meaning of the name and the hedgehog’s personality when we make our final choice.”
Many of the hedgehogs in the care of the Flash and Thelma Memorial Hedgehog Rescue, Inc., a licensed animal shelter and rescue in Divide, Colorado, were given African tribal names. According to founder Z.G. Standing Bear, this reflects their native lands of North and Central Africa. "Some examples are Izigqi, Thembekele, Ukuqambe, Ithemba, Ukuphana, Mbiza, Isibindi, Uzulane, Mnene, Vunulisa, Khalisa, Tokelossie — an Afrikaans name meaning gremlin, Mai hankali, Mai Fara'a, Msumari and Swartzie.”
Standing Bear also described the naming of a large group of hedgehogs that came into the rescue in 2004. "Of the 24 arrivals, a mom and four 1-month-old newborns were among them.” He said that the mom bore a striking resemblance to a former hedgehog named Sigmund Pogstein, which was turned over to the rescue by a Jewish University student. "The mom and her brood all got Yiddish names: Sadie Pogstein [Mom], Nellie Pogstein, Isidore Pogstein [the one boy], Lily Pogstein and Anatefka Pogstein.”
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