Cape Porcupine

Scientific name: Hystrix africaeaustralis

The Cape porcupine or South African porcupine is a species of Old World porcupine native to central and southern Africa. They are from the family Hystricidae and their group name is Family.

Cape porcupines measure 63 to 86 centimetres long (25 to 33 inches) from the head to the base of the tail, with the tail adding a further 11–20 centimetres (4.3–7.9 inches). They weigh in between from 10 to 24 kilograms (22 to 53 pounds); weight varies with locality. Females are larger and heavier than males.

Porcupines use their magnificent, zebra striped, quills for defence. They will shake the quills which emit a rattling sound as a warning. If threatened, they will turn their back side towards the predator and charge backwards into the predator. Contrary to popular belief, the quills cannot be projected and are not poisonous.

Cape porcupine mate any time of the year, yet they reach a peak between August and March. Females give birth once a year unless a littler is lost. Oestrus lasts for an average of nine days, during which a membrane across the vagina opens to allow insemination. After mating, a copulatory plug forms, which is expelled about 48 hours later. Of course, because of their fatal anatomy, the female will signal when she is ready for mating.

Gestation lasts around 3 months and can result in one to four young. Once the new prickly critter is born, they have soft quills which quickly harden in the air and the young one will weigh 300 to 440 grams (11 to 16 oz). At the end of their first year, they will reach sexual maturity and their full size. Males reach sexual maturity between 8 and 18 months, females, on the other hand, reach their maturity between 9 and 16 months.

This nocturnal omnivore has lots of Interesting Facts:

  • Both sexes scent mark their territory
  • A pair living together (typical an adult male and female) can inhabit up to six burrows.
  • A mated pair will share the responsibility of caring for their young.
  • In the wild, they reach 10 years of age and 20 in captivity.
  • Their quills are covered with antibiotics.


Written by Tersha van Staden

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