The Prickly Truth About Porcupines

Porcupines are medium-sized rodents related to beavers, and they are the third-largest rodents on earth. These animals like to hang out in trees as they eat. Their primary defense against predators is to avoid them, but these mammals have another unique way to ward off larger creatures:their prickly spines. Check out these porcupine facts that help explain this wonder of nature.

Latin Name


Name in Latin means “quill pig.” These quills sit all over the porcupine’s back instead of normal fur found on most mammals.

Detachable Weapons


Quills detach easily when they stick in something, such as the face of a predator.

They Grow Back


Any quills that disattach from a porcupine’s body grow back over time, much like hair on a human’s head.

Plant Eaters


Porcupines are herbivores that eat mainly bark, leaves and fruit. These animals climb trees to find the best food.

That’s a Lot of Stinging


Porcupines might have as many as 30,000 quills at any given time. That’s a lot of stinging if a predator simply refuses to give up.

Babies Are So Cute


Baby porcupines have soft quills at birth that harden in a few days. The soft quills just make the newborns even more cute.

Article continues below

Our Featured Programs

See how we’re making a difference for People, Pets, and the Planet and how you can get involved!



Quills lay flat on a porcupine’s until the animal is threatened. Muscles then make the quills straighten very quickly and all at once.

African Variety Has Extra-Long Quills


Quills on the crested porcupine in Africa are nearly 1 foot long. See how this crested porcupine uses its quills to ward off a pride of lions.

Protect the Planet

Help preserve vital habitat at The Rainforest Site for free!