African Crested Porcupine

African Crested Porcupine


Southern Africa north to Kenya in the east and Gabon in the west. Also in Zanzibar.


All types of forests, mountain steppes, sandhill deserts, fields and savannas from sea level to 3500 meters.


The crested porcupine has a stout body supported by thick legs. The head and neck are long with a crest of long, thin backward curved bristles extending from the nape down the back. The tail is short and almost hidden. The back, rump and tail are covered with long black, brown and white banded quills. The quills are cylindrical, stout and may be 1 foot in length. Although they are very sharp, the quills are not barbed and are loosely attached to the follicle. The quills are intermixed with longer, more flexible spines, which act as guards for the quills. The spines may be up to 21 inches in length. The head and underparts are covered with black hair which is often mixed with white on the head.

African Crested Porcupine

Crested porcupines are fairly social animals, often traveling in pairs or small family groups. Females maintain a separate den for rearing young, and generally forage alone. Adults may lick each other as well as the young. Frequently, several porcupines will den together. The den may be very long and have several entrances. Although they are not carnivores, well gnawed bones from carcasses may litter the burrow entrance. The crested porcupine is usually nocturnal, but is frequently abroad during the day. It is completely terrestrial, unlike North American porcupines. Its hearing and sense of smell are good. The long vibrissae on the snout are extremely sensitive. It is an able swimmer whose hollow quills act as a flotation device to help carry them along. When disturbed it will stamp its forefeet, growl and gnash its teeth. The quills on the tail may be shaken to produce a rattling sound.

Although the dens may be littered with bones, the porcupine is not a killer. The bones may be brought from great distances for the group to gnaw on.


After a gestation of 107-112 days, 1-3 young are born in an underground nest of leaves and dry grasses. At birth the young weigh 10 oz. Newborns have a longitudinal band of black hair along the back. A pattern of 5 longitudinal stripes along the sides will disappear in approximately 4 weeks. The soft quills, which harden in a few days, may be white near the shoulders. The young are born with eyes open and the incisor teeth through the gums. There may be 2 litters per year.

Interesting Facts:

Hollow, cone shaped "rattle cupules" near the end of the tail amplify the sound. The porcupine then turns his back and rushes backward to impale the intruder. They do not"shoot" their quills out at an offender.

African Crested Porcupine
African Crested Porcupine
Class: mammals
Genus: Hystrix
Species: africaeaustralis
Length: 23-34 inches
Weight: 22-65 pounds
Average Lifespan: 7.5 years
Wild Diet: Roots, bark, fruit, bulbs, foliage, melons, tubers, rhizomes, cultivated crops, insects, small vertebrates.
Predators: Large carnivores, man.
USFWS Status: Not Listed
CITES Status: Not Listed
Where at the Zoo? Small Animal Building: Desert Zone

Learn more about mammals or animals from Africa!
Or, cross-reference the two!