Unfortunately, there is a great deal of confusion when it comes to distinguishing Algerian from White-Bellied colours. This isn't surprising considering the similarities - and misconceptions - between the two.
To understand Algerian colours is to understand the genesis of the domestic hedgehog. You see, the domestic hedgehog is the result of the crossing of two distinctly different species of African Hedgehog - the White-Bellied (Atelerix albiventris) and the Algerian. (Atelerix algirus)
While the two species were a compatible mix, blending the physical characteristics of each into the pet hedgehog of today, the colours proved incompatible and never did successfully blend. (The Apricot was the only colour to succeed in coming out of this cross, being a true mutation created when the cinnamon genes of the two species collided) As a result, we now have two distinct and separate colour groups within the colour classification system of the domestic hedgehog. The two species colour's cannot mix either. At no time will you ever see a <GM>, <CL>, or any other such inter-species mixing of colour chromosomes. There is a defined and impassable barrier between the colour groups. This is not, however, true of the physical characteristics. You may still see an Algerian-coloured hedgehog with White-Bellied physical features and vice versa.
In spite of the obvious incompatibility between the colour groups, they do mirror one another rather nicely. All variations of colour that exist in White-Bellied's also hold true for Algerian's. There are 15 dominant colours, running the gamut between Black and Apricot, as well as the complete set of recessives, dilutes, etc. Once you understand the genetic pattern for one species colour, you likewise have it for the other. The only real trick is in correct colour identification.
Contrary to contemporary belief, background quill colour is of little use in colour identification. Whether the quill is white or cream-coloured is generally nothing more than a subjective call. Instead, I have developed a system employing 5 different physical markers. They are:
- 1 Forehead Quill Banding
The long, double-banded quills on the forehead are very helpful. If there is good, clean separation between the two bands, the hedgehog is in the White-Bellied colour grouping. If there is poor separation with a fair degree of colour or muddiness between the bands, then the colour is in the Algerian grouping.
- 2 Skin Colour
The skin colour over the back is another excellent means of identification. If after reviewing the standardized colour guide you find that your hedgehog's quill colour fits the description given for a particular colour, but that the skin colour is darker, you are likely looking at an Algerian colour. Algerian colours have a skin colour that is a full 5 shades darker than their White-Bellied counterparts. (see skin chart)
- 3 Mask Colour
Although the differences between mask colours in the two species is difficult to differentiate in colours in the Apricot to Algerian Chocolate range, (Algerian masks are somewhat lighter and more of a brownish tinge) they are very easy to distinguish in the Algerian Grey to Black range. The masks in these colours are considerably darker and extend well past the eye, almost to the point where the face meets the quill line at the side of the face. As well, many display "badger stripes," two stripes that extend from the mask, up the forehead between the eyes, to the quill line.
- 4 Mottling
Mottling of the skin on the underbelly (similar to birth marks) is another good indicator. While White-Bellied Salt & Pepper, Dark Grey and Grey (and their associated variants) can and oftentimes do have mottling, all other White-Bellied colours do not. All Algerian colours, on the other hand, can display mottling to some degree. A Cinnicot with mottling, for example, must be an Algerian
- 5 Eye Patches
Eye patches are a very distinctive marking seen only in Algerian colours and the odd W.B.Champagne/Cinnicot. These are pale golden-brown patches of colour located just below the eye. They range in intensity from very pale and small in Algerian Champagne to a rich golden-brown and as much as 3/8 inch in diameter in the darker Algerian colours.