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20 Types of Porcupines: Species, Facts and Photos

Porcupines are well-known prickly rodents, with species scattered from tropical to temperate regions across Asia, Southern Europe, Africa, and the Americas. In this article, we analyze different types of porcupines, highlighting their varied habitats and distinct appearances. Stay tuned for a thorough understanding of the quill pig.

Porcupine Classification

Porcupines are rodents grouped into 30 species within two prominent families: Erethizontidae and Hystricidae. Each family has its distinctive characteristics, but all have quills, modified hairs made of keratin.

Erethizontidae, also known as New World porcupines, inhabit North and South America. They offer the advantage of prehensile tails that function almost like an extra hand, aiding their predominantly arboreal lifestyle. 

In contrast, Hystricidae, or Old World porcupines, have anchored their existence in the habitats of Asia, Europe, and Africa. Unlike their New World cousins, they are mainly terrestrial and cannot use their tails for gripping. The upcoming sections will discuss the unique distinctions between diverse porcupine species in greater detail.

Read More: Porcupine Facts.

20 Types of Porcupines

1. North American Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum)

North American Porcupine
Photo by J. Glover on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 (Cropped from original).

The North American Porcupine, or Canadian Porcupine, is the largest porcupine species in North America. It is distributed across various habitats and can reach three feet with tails up to a foot long.

It has around 30,000 barbed, hollow quills embedded into its skin or hair and can easily detach from the porcupine's body. Additionally, North American Porcupines feed on various vegetation, making it a nuisance to foresters. Predators like the North American golden eagles also hunt them.

One peculiar habit of the porcupine is self-anointing, which involves creating a paste and meticulously applying it to its quills. Scientists still do not know the reason behind this behavior.

2. Brazilian Porcupine (Coendou prehensilis)

Brazilian Porcupine
Photo by thibaudaronson on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (Cropped from original).

The Brazilian Porcupine is a highly adaptable creature found in various habitats in South America. It sports short, thick, whitish, or yellowish spines, darker hair, and a gray underside. Its fleshy lips and nose complement its prehensile tail, which curls upward to grip tree branches.

This nocturnal animal spends most of its time high up in tree canopies, using its prehensile tail to climb quickly. Moreover, the Brazilian Porcupine raises and shakes its quills and may drive its sharp quills into their predators’ skin. These New World porcupines eat bark, leaves, and fruits, particularly mangoes and avocados. 

3. Bristle-spined Porcupine (Chaetomys subspinosus)

The Bristle-spined Porcupine is an arboreal rodent from the Atlantic forests of Eastern Brazil. Its key identifying feature is the unique texture of the spines on its back, which feel more like bristles than traditional spines.

Its unique anatomy has special traits like a bony ring around the eye socket and unusually narrow incisors. This rodent exhibits a mix of cranial features seen in other rodents, creating a distinct profile.

Unfortunately, Bristle-spined Porcupines are vulnerable species. Only 17% of their natural habitat remains intact. Forest fragmentation and habitat quality decline are also contributors.

4. Thin-spined Porcupine (Chaetomys pellophorus)

The Thin-spined Porcupine lives in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil, spending its daylight hours in hollows. It is primarily nocturnal and feeds on leaves; cecropia tree foliage is a favorite. It faces various predators, including wild cats, large birds of prey, and humans who hunt it for its meat and spines. 

They are primarily brown or grey, boasting bristle-like hairs rather than typical spines. However, the head, neck, and forelimbs feature less pliable spiky hairs. Their feet and tail exhibit a dark brown or black hue.

Moreover, their breeding season is not specific. Female porcupines give birth to one offspring after a gestation period of around 210 days.

5. Streaked Dwarf Porcupine (Coendou ichillus)

The Streaked Dwarf Porcupine is a New World porcupine discovered in Ecuador and Peru in 2001. This porcupine type stands out due to its long tail, almost hairless adult body, darker quill tips, and three-colored barbed hairs. Its belly is unusually spiky and bears a unique set of skull features.

6. Roosmalen's Dwarf Porcupine (Coendou roosmalenorum)

The Roosmalen's Dwarf Porcupine inhabits the southern Amazon rainforest in Brazil. Dutch botanist and ecologist Marc van Roosmalen discovered it in 2001. 

Roosmalen's Dwarf Porcupine is smaller than other porcupine species, weighing only about 2 pounds as an adult. Its shorter quills are less dense and have bands of black and white. Additionally, its prehensile tails help it navigate through dense trees. 

This nocturnal species spends its days in the safety of hollow trees or burrows. It ventures out at night to forage for food. Its diet consists of leaves, fruits, and bark, with a preference for certain palm fruits.

Their reproduction is slow, and they give birth only to a single offspring after a gestation period of about seven months.

7. Black-tailed Hairy Dwarf Porcupine (Coendou melanurus)

The Black-tailed Hairy Dwarf Porcupine lives in the rainforests of Colombia and Venezuela. It has a black tail with dense and short quills, which it uses for defense. It has a prehensile tail and spends its days in the safety of the tree canopy. 

This porcupine also feeds on leaves, fruits, and small branches and gives birth to a single offspring after carrying it for about 202 days.

8. Mexican Hairy Dwarf Porcupine (Coendou mexicanus)

Mexican Hairy Dwarf Porcupine
Photo by Diana Fuentes on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (Cropped from original).

The Mexican Hairy Dwarf Porcupine is a nocturnal creature found in the rainforests of Mexico. It has a light-colored head that contrasts with its dark body. It is covered in short, yellowish quills hidden by long black fur. 

Sometimes, spines peek through the fur on its back and shoulders. Its hairless head showcases the yellowish quills. It has a pink, wide, round nose and small eyes. Moreover, its spiny prehensile tail is wide at the base and narrow at the end.

These quills function as a security system; the porcupine can puff them up to transform into a spiky ball when threatened. The Mexican Hairy Dwarf Porcupine primarily feeds on fruits, leaves, and bark and occasionally consumes small insects and roots.

9. Brown Hairy Dwarf Porcupine (Coendou vestitus)

Brown Hairy Dwarf Porcupine
Photo by Illustratedjc on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (Cropped from original).

The Brown Hairy Dwarf Porcupine lives in the thick forests of Colombia. It prefers to avoid the forest floor. 

This porcupine has soft, long spines and a shorter tail than its relatives. The tail helps the porcupine navigate the tree branches, where it spends most of its time. 

Moreover, it comes out at night to search for food, including the leaves, fruits, and small branches of the Cecropia tree. 

When threatened, the porcupine fluffs up its quills to appear bigger and scarier, accompanied by whistles, grunts, and shrieks.

10. Bahia Hairy Dwarf Porcupine (Coendou insidiosus)

The Bahia Hairy Dwarf Porcupine measures about 24 inches long, not counting the tail. It also has short, dense spines hidden beneath coarse, brown hair. 

It is a nocturnal animal that feeds on leaves, fruits, and bark; it forages alone for food and shelter but seeks companionship only during the mating season. 

The species wards off potential threats by raising its quills and rattling when threatened. Moreover, it disperses seeds around the forest floor, contributing to the biodiversity of Brazil's lush forests.

11. Stump-tailed Porcupine (Coendou rufescens)

Stump-tailed Porcupine
Illustration by Joseph Wolf (Public Domain).

The Stump-tailed Porcupine lives in the tropical rainforests of South America. Its short, stubby tail serves as a sensitive touch organ and a balance aid. 

Moreover, it rests in tree hollows or burrows during the day and forages for food at night. It eats leaves, fruits, bark, roots, and insects and communicates with various sounds. 

12. Andean Porcupine (Coendou quichua)

Andean Porcupine
Photo by Bertis Y. Franco Pérez on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY 4.0 (Cropped from original).

The Andean Porcupine lives in the forests of Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. It showcases a large pink nose and tiny eyes. Its body is covered in dark spines with yellowish tips distributed evenly around the midsection. 

Moreover, it has a prehensile tail that narrows from a wider base. Unlike the hairy Mexican dwarf porcupine, the Andean porcupines are more spiny.

It feeds on leaves, fruits, bark, insects, and bird eggs, controlling vegetation and supporting the food chain in its ecosystem. However, the porcupine's reproductive habits and population trends are not well-known, which makes them an intriguing subject for scientists.

13. Bicolor-spined Porcupine (Coendou bicolor)

 Bicolor-spined Porcupine
Photo by Claude Kolwelter on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY 4.0 (Cropped from original).

The Bicolor-spined Porcupine is a nocturnal mammal native to the rainforests of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. It has a dense coat of yellow-based, black-tipped spines that darken on its mid-back. Its primarily spine-free tail is fully prehensile, aiding in maneuverability.

It communicates using various sounds and primarily feeds on leaves, fruits, and bark, supplementing its diet with roots, stems, and insects. 

After a gestation period of around 200 days, the female gives birth to a single offspring, which initially has soft quills that harden within a few days.

14. Long-tailed Porcupine (Trichys fasciculata)

Long-tailed Porcupine
Illustration by Thomas Hardwicke (Public Domain).

Long-tailed porcupines, indigenous to regions such as Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia, resemble rats. They boast black or brown coloration, contrasting with white underbodies. Short, dark brown spines with white bases blanket their bodies, excluding their heads and underbelly.

Among their defensive mechanisms, they shed their tails when seized by predators, but these tails do not regenerate. Their broad paws enable adept tree climbing, which is useful when foraging for food. 

Primarily herbivores, they consume various plant materials, including leaves, wood, roots, and bark. Occasionally, they also ingest insects and other arthropods. Notably, their role as food hoarders aids in seed dispersal.

15. North African Crested Porcupine (Hystrix cristata)

North African Crested Porcupine
Photo by Bernard DUPONT on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (Cropped from original).

The North African Crested Porcupine is one of the largest rodents in the world. Its black or brown body is covered with porcupine quills that can reach up to 14 inches. It prefers rocky terrain, where it spends most of the day in complex burrows. 

While generally peaceful, the Crested Porcupine will fight back when it perceives an immediate threat.

16. Indian Crested Porcupine (Hystrix indica)

Indian Crested Porcupine
Photo by Rufus46 on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (Cropped from original).

The Indian Crested Porcupine is a nocturnal mammal in southern Asia and the Middle East. It has long, thin quills on its head and back, which it raises when threatened. Moreover, it can adapt well to various environments, including rocky hillsides and sandy deserts.

During the day, the Indian Crested Porcupine stays in its burrow. Then, it ventures out at night to forage. The porcupine feeds on roots, fruits, and crops. It also gathers bones to supplement its diet with essential minerals.

A study on Indian Crested Porcupine's quills reveals the development of antibacterial keratin microparticles1. These microparticles enhance pharmacological action against harmful bacteria, like Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus, showing up to a 55% improvement when coated with lipids from the same quills. This groundbreaking study demonstrates potential use in clinical applications.

17. Malayan Porcupine (Hystrix brachyura)

Malayan Porcupine
Photo by Rushenb on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (Cropped from original).

The Malayan Porcupine lives in the dense forests of Southeast Asia. During the day, it hides in the root networks of trees, termite mounds, or rocky crevices. At night, it emerges to feed on roots, bark, and fallen fruits. 

Moreover, the Malayan Porcupine's most distinctive feature is its coat of sharp, dark quills that stand on end when it senses danger. It also occasionally preys on insects or small vertebrates. 

18. Cape Porcupine (Hystrix africaeaustralis)

Cape Porcupine
Photo by Steven Lek on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (Cropped from original).

The Cape Porcupine has black quills with white or yellowish stripes, a crucial defense mechanism. It lives in a wide range of habitats across Africa. 

While primarily an herbivore, Cape Porcupines also gnaw on bones to supplement their diet with calcium. They are also good swimmers and climbers.

19. Philippine Porcupine (Hystrix pumila)

Philippine Porcupine
Photo by Jklamo on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (Cropped from original).

The Philippine porcupine, also known as the Palawan porcupine, is a distinctive creature native to the island of Palawan in the Philippines. Its habitat is commonly a blend of secondary forest and grassland, with some residing in lowland primary and secondary forests. 

IUCN gave Philippine Porcupines vulnerable status2. Over the coming 22 years, its population is projected to decrease by more than 30%. Forest loss and its rampant use in pet and bushmeat trade are significant factors accelerating this decline.

20. African Brush-tailed Porcupine (Atherurus africanus)

The African brush-tailed porcupines stand out among its kind. These Old World porcupines live in many places, from Guinea's west coast to Kenya's east. 

It has a rat-like face, a similar body, and short legs with clawed, webbed feet. Unlike the others, its quills are small and lightweight, and the quills of its tail have a brush-like appearance.

This type of porcupine thrives in forested areas, favoring high elevations. Its routines follow a nocturnal pattern, and it seeks refuge in caves or burrows during daylight hours. It sustains its herbivorous diet with leaves, flowers, and fruits on the forest floor.

1

Majeed, Z., Farhat, H., Ahmad, B., Iqbal, A., Faiz, A. U. H., Mahnashi, M. H., Alqarni, A. O., Alqahtani, O., Ali, A. A., & Momenah, A. M. (2023). Process optimization, antioxidant, antibacterial, and drug adjuvant properties of bioactive keratin microparticles derived from porcupine (Hystrix indica) quills. PeerJ, 11, e15653.

2

Clayton, E. (2018). Hystrix pumila. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T10753A22231557. 

By Mike Gomez, BA.

Mike is a degree-qualified researcher and writer passionate about increasing global awareness about climate change and encouraging people to act collectively in resolving these issues.

Fact Checked By:
Isabela Sedano, BEng.

Photo by Bodlina on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY 3.0 (Cropped from original).
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