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-   -   African pygmy hedgehogs & European hedgehogs? (https://www.hedgehogcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?t=100642)

Dragonfly TV Hedgehogs 03-31-2015 11:21 AM

African pygmy hedgehogs & European hedgehogs?
Hello HH central,

I'm doing some research and trying to find out about the similarities between pygmy & european hedgehogs, sorry if these seem like silly questions!

Have there ever been cases of cross breeding? Can they catch the same diseases?

Any insights would be much appreciated :)


Draenog 03-31-2015 12:13 PM

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They are both hedgehogs which means they belong to the same family, Erinaceidae. However, these two hedgehog species belong to a different genus. The European hedgehog belongs to Erinaceus while the African pygmy is classified as the four-toed or whitebellied hedgehog, Atelerix albiventris (Atelerix is the genus).

There are different kinds of hybrids. Most hybrids are bred from two species within the same genus. An example of a hybrid like this is the mule, a cross between a donkey and a horse, both belonging to the genus Equus. These are usually called interspecific hybrids.

Intergeneric hybrids however are rare. These are crosses between animals who belong to the same subfamily but not to the same genus. An example of this which sometimes occurs is the "geep" or "shoat", a hybrid between a goat and a sheep. A lot of these hybrids are still born. It is highly unlikely for hedgehogs of different genera to be able to breed. Even if they were to mate, the chromosome count is most likely too different to produce offspring. The genetic distance is usually too big for intergeneric hybrids to survive.

The African pygmy hedgehog is said to be a hybrid of the four-toed hedgehog (Atelerix albiventris) and the Algerian or North African hedgehog (Atelerix algirus). Back when they imported the first hedgehogs to the US they apparently imported from different places in Africa which could mean they imported various species.
These two belong to the same genus, which could make hybrids possible; however, the African pygmy looks exactly like the four-toed hedgehog and nothing like the Algerian (I own African pygmies and an Algerian and they are very different), so either the Algerians who have contributed to the breed were few in number, very recessive, actually another species more closely related to the four-toed, or it was impossible to breed the hybrids - a very likely option, since a lot of hybrids (mules for example) are infertile. The scientific classification of the African pygmy hedgehog is currently still that of the four-toed, A. albiventris.

The European hedgehog as the UK knows them is the Western European hedgehog. Another hedgehog species in Europe is the Northern White-breasted hedgehog which looks slightly similar but (obviously) has a white spot on its breast. They live in Eastern Europe and Asia.

As for diseases, that might be possible to a certain extent but in general African pygmy hedgehogs are kept inside since they need a heated environment and don't hibernate in captivity (it can be deadly). So they wouldn't come in contact with European hedgehogs.
But common things like fleas, mites, ringworms etc. found on European hedgehogs could infect pygmy hedgehogs as well.

Hope this answers your questions :)

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