The use of hedgehogs and their body parts in traditional medicine and cultural activities is as ancient as the hedgehog itself. These practices are even practiced today in some countries. Eurasia and Africa are most common for traditional medicines made by animals’ parts.
Ancient traditions leading to the decline of hedgehogs in the wild. That, plus loss of habitat, being eaten as bush meat, vehicles hitting hedgehogs on roads and the exotic pet industry.
Let’s look at a few cultures around the world and what uses they have for hedgehogs.
Egyptian long-eared hedgehog and Desert hedgehogs.
In ancient Egypt hedgehogs was kept as symbolic pets to ward of danger and used as food offerings to the deceased. Egyptians regarded hedgehogs as magical wise creatures who disappeared in the winter when food is scarce and magically reappears in the spring, it was symbolic for them as they believe in rebirth and afterlife. They would even entomb a live hedgehog with their deceased as they believed hedgehogs is a lucky charm that will ward of all evil spirits. The fact that hedgehogs are venom resistant captivated the Egyptians, for poison deaths was a very popular method to get rid of enemies and rivalries. They kept hedgehog- like rattles to protect them from possible assassinations. Quills were used in medico-magical prescriptions, like cures for baldness. See link below for more info on ancient Egyptians and hedgehogs.
Bare-bellied Hedgehogs. The Bare-Bellied South Indian Hedgehog or Madras hedgehog was on the brink of becoming extinct due to these traditions. They are now under the protection of the Indian Wildlife act.
The quills were dried, powdered, and mix with honey to be used as cough remedies. Meat is regarded as a food source.
Egyptian long-eared hedgehog and Desert hedgehog.
They believe the meat are medicinal and can cure rheumatism, arthritis, tuberculosis and helps with impotency. Blood from a hedgehog to cure ringworm, warts, good for cracked skin. The flesh (meat) is considered a remedy for evil spirits.
Food source and delicacy, blood and fat are considered as medicinal.
North African hedgehog and Desert hedgehog.
Inhaling the smoke from of burnt skin and quills reliefs fever and cure for male impotency.
South Africa and surrounding countries
Southern African Hedgehog. In South Africa the Southern African Hedgehog are also under threat for these reasons. Also, now a protected species and not allowed to be kept as pets.
Bushmeat and hunting; source of income. Captured or killed hedgehogs are sold to traditional healers.Traditional healers believed that the smoke from quills and dried meat keep evil spirits away. Fat is believed to be a remedy for earache in children.
Article and photos by Lizl van Vreden.