I Just Learned How Hedgehogs Mate, And I Guess Spiky And Horny Are Two Different Things

Well, well, well.
imageBROKER/Kevin Sawford via Getty Images

We’ve written before at HuffPost UK about how alligator penises are much more active than we’d imagined, and have even shared about how horrific the male bedbug’s anatomy is for their poor partners.

So perhaps you can forgive us for expecting horrors to abound when it comes to hedgehogs doing the deed (all those spines!).

We’ve been proven both right and wrong, it seems. While spikes aren’t an issue when it comes to mating, the beasties’ courting ritual is more likely to end in a brawl than a romantic night in ― and the boars are never quite free from danger.

Here’s what we learned:

Spikes begone!

While the mating itself might be a little unusual, Young People’s Trust for the Environment (YTPE) says that male hedgehogs try their hardest to woo their ladies.

“The male (boar) circles around the female (sow), sometimes for hours, trying to persuade her to mate,” they shared.

BBC Earth shows footage of this, with David Attenborough adding, “You might think that having a coat of spines on your back might be something of a handicap when it comes to the intimacies of courtship.”

He said that throughout history, naturalists even thought they mated belly-to-belly.

But that’s not the case, the Our Planet star revealed.

The male mounts the female ― and it seems she flattens her spines for the event, though as former Northumberland Park Ranger John Steele says, “If she is unwilling she flinches or even snaps at or butts the approaching male.”

“Only when she is ready will she prepare herself by arching her back and slicking down her spines,” he adds.

That’s probably the most considerate part of the ritual

OK, it’s sweet(ish) that the boar circles the sow for hours before mating, huffing and snorting to impress her. But the show actually seems to draw more boys to the seven, and con often end in a tussle.

“The commotion attracts rival males to the scene and courtship can thus be interrupted as interlopers are confronted and rival males square up to one another; head-butting and chases are not uncommon,” Hedgehog Street says.

Despite this, hedgehogs are pretty promiscuous, and boars do not stay with sows to raise their young. And if you’re wondering (as I was) about potential problems with birthing hoglets, fear not ― they have no spikes when they’re babies.

So, not as horrifying as I’d thought. Still, as David Attenborough says, “It does seem that the old joke that asks, ‘How do hedgehogs mate?’ was right all along ― the answer is, of course, ‘with great care.’”