African Crested Porcupine

(Hystrix cristata)

African Crested Porcupine


The African crested porcupine is the largest rodent in Africa. It lives in hilly, rocky habitats in sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and Italy. It is an herbivore. Porcupine comes from the Latin porcus for pig and spina for spine: “spiny pig.” Porcupines, however, are not related to pigs.


Porcupines primarily eat roots, tubers, bark and fallen fruit, but also cultivated root crops such as cassava, potatoes and carrots. In some areas, they are agricultural pests. Farmers use dogs to hunt them or smoke them out of burrows.


Predators include owls, leopards and pythons. The porcupine warns predators to back off by stamping its feet, clicking its teeth and growling or hissing, while raising its quills and vibrating specialized quills to produce a rattle sound. If the predator doesn’t retreat, the porcupine runs backward until it rams its attacker. Its hindquarters are the most heavily armed. Scales on the quill tips lodge in the skin of predators like fishhooks and are difficult to remove.

Quill lengths vary on different parts of the body, from 1 inch to 12 inches on the back. New quills grow in to replace lost ones.


Porcupines occupy natural shelters among roots and rocks, holes made by other animals and holes they dig. Burrows are most commonly used for family units.


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