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< > APPEARANCE/ MORPHOLOGY: LEGS, SPINE AND TRACKS with literature reports for the West European Hedgehog: Use sub-contents list below, or simply scroll down the page to view findings.

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LEGS, SPINE AND TRACKS - Editorial Comment

Editorial Comment (Editorial Overview Text Replicated on Overall Species page - Erinaceus europaeus - West European Hedgehog)

The legs of hedgehogs are quite long but most of their length is not usually easily visible, being hidden in the skirt of hair along the flanks. The stance is plantigrade (they walk fully on the soles of the feet). The feet, each with five toes, bear long strong claws with a flattened profile. There is a marked difference in shape between the front and hind feet so that their respective tracks are easily distinguished. The forefoot tracks (excluding claws) are about 25 mm long by 25-30 mm wide and point inwards while the hind feet tracks are about 30 mm long and 20 mm wide, pointing outwards. The stride is about 10-15 cm long, the width between tracks about 3-6 cm.

(References are available in detailed literature reports below)

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Legs and Tracks

Source Information
  • The legs are quite long but are usually hidden by the skirt of hair positioned along the hedgehog's flanks. (B254.5.w5, B262.2.w2)
  • Hedgehog legs measure approximately 10 cm from hip to toe. (B254.5.w5)
  • About 30 mm of the front legs and a little more of the back legs are visible. (B255.2.w2)
  • Whilst the legs are not normally visible during slow locomotion, hedgehogs can extend their limbs if they move quickly when the under sole and heels of hind feet become clearly visible. (B254.2.w2)
  • During high speed locomotion hedgehogs move at an average speed of 30-40 meters per minute (approximately 2 m.p.h.)  and can achieve brief sprints of up to 2 metres per second (6 m.p.h.). (B254.18.w18, B261)
  • Hedgehogs are able to run faster than humans can walk. (B260.2.w2)
  • Hedgehog claws are long, strong, quite flattened in profile, and are used in digging and climbing. (B260.1.w1, B262.2.w2)
  • Five toes are present on both the fore and hind feet. (B142, B228.1.w1, B260.1.w1, B262.2.w2)
  • The shape of the front and hind feet of the hedgehog differ markedly leaving footprints with a distinguishable appearance. (B254.2.w2)
  • The digits of the forefoot are stronger and more widely spaced than those of the hind feet which are narrower and close together. (B269)
  • Forefoot track dimensions are approximately 25 mm long (exclusive of claws), 25-30 mm wide (maximal spread). Corresponding hind foot measurements are approximately 30 mm long and 20 mm wide.(B269)
  • The stride of the hedgehog typically measures 10-15 cm long and 3-6 cm wide (B269); 15 cm long. (B268)
  • Hedgehog tracks have three "large fused triangular interdigital pads; two oval symmetrical proximals at back of track; hand outline present". (B268)
  • Hedgehog tracks are most commonly seen in areas of muddy woodland and field paths, particularly after rainfall. (B269)
  • Trails at walking pace follow a "wavy double line" with the forefeet and hind feet pointing inwards and outwards respectively. The marks left by the hind feet superimpose over the pad imprints of the forefeet producing a "double track". (B269, B258.w2)
  • Drag from spines may be visible in the track for hedgehogs moving at walking pace.(B268)
  • Careful discrimination is required to distinguish hedgehog footprints from those of rats (Rattus norvegicus - Brown rat), squirrels (Sciurus - (Genus)) and water voles (Arvicola terrestris - European water vole). (B142)
  • Hedgehog hind feet are narrow and approximately 3-4 cm long (1.25 inches). (B254.2.w2)
  • Hedgehog fore feet are typically shorter and broader than the hind feet. (B254.2.w2)
  • The hedgehog's plantigrade stance, where the whole foot makes contact with the ground during weight bearing, makes the footprints clear (B142, B228.1.w1, B258.w2, B285.w1); however the thumb print is often faint. (B269)

Details of Bone Structure (Osteology)

  • The pelvic and pectoral girdle of the hedgehog are similar in basic structure to those of the earliest mammals. (B228.1.w1)
  • The clavicle of the hedgehog is well developed, acting as a strut against which the forelimbs are braced for digging. This is a conservative feature which has been retained. (B228.1.w1)
  • Erinaceus species (Erinaceus - (Genus)) have a number of anatomical characteristics in common which include a well-developed hallux bone on the hind feet. (B228.1.w1)

(B142, B228.1.w1, B254.2.w2, B254.5.w5, B254.18.w18, B255.2.w2, B260.1.w1, B260.2.w2, B262.2.w2, B268, B269, B285.w1)

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Authors & Referees

Authors Becki Lawson (V.w26); Debra Bourne (V.w5)
Referee Suzanne I. Boardman (V.w6); Nigel Reeve (V.w57)

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