North Cyprus  

Cyprus Hedgehog
Cyprus HedgehogThe hedgehog is the only mammal with thorns that exists in Cyprus. It is a very cute animal found in gardens, around fences and in prairies. 

It has been known for centuries and therefore it is connected with many legends and proverbs.

Beetles, larvae, worms, snails, eggs of small birds and snakes are its food. The latter is its favourite food. It hunts it cleverly. Once it sees the snake, it runs towards it and bites the snake's tail. Then it immediately shrinks and becomes a thorny ball. Then the snake attacks the hedgehog with its head to force it to leave. Beating the thorns, however, is lethal for  the snake. It is wounded, and after a while it dies from bleeding. The hedgehog then starts "unfolding" and eats the snake. It is particularly strange how the hedgehog "invites" many other hedgehogs to eat together. They eat the snake apart from its head.

During winter-time, the hedgehog hibernates and feeds on the fat that it had gained during summer. It starts giving birth in April, as soon as it comes out of hibernation. Most of the young hedgehogs are born in early summer. However, births take place also during September, when the young ones of the first birt do not survive. Young hedgehogs of the second birth rarely survive in winter. When the mother is disturbed in her nest, she either abandons her
young ones or eats them. However, if they are relatively old, she carries them to a safer place, by biting them from the neck, like the cats.

The young ones start feeding on solid food when they are one month old. That is the time when they follow their mother in search for food in the night.  The young ones abandon their mother and find their own food once they become six weeks old. The male hedgehog does not participate in raising the young ones. In fact, he avoids living with them.

The female hedgehog gives birth to three to five young ones, who are born naked and pink. They are born in a nest in the form of a whole in the ground made by the female hedgehog who uses tree-leaves or dry grass for this purpose. Such holes can also be found on the trees and under the rocks. The young ones are blind and start to grow scarce, tender white thorns a few hours after their birth. That is exactly the period when snakes wait for their mother to leave the nest in search of food. Then they enter the nest and swallow the young ones, their favourite food. During the first two weeks of their lives, hedgehogs grown more brown thorns between the white ones. When they are 5-6 weeks old they have approximately 2,000 thorns on its back. When it defends itself, it streches the thorns that reach 2.5 cm. The thorns remain on the hedgehog's back for a year and then they fall only to be replaced by new ones. The thorny back of the hedgehog is always visible, while its head and belly are covered with thing grey hairs.

Usually it walks during the night. It has a sharp sense of smell which helps it to find food. It measures 25 cm, and defends itself against its enemies by streching its thorns while it shrinks, transforming into a closed thorny ball which makes it difficult for other animals to attack and kill it. It is believed that the fox, known for being cunning, when coming across a hedgehog at a swamp, pulls it carefully with her paw into water. As a consequence, the hedgehog in its effor to survive -eventhough it is a very good swimmer- unco-
vers its head. Then the fox kills and eats it.