My Name Is Prickly

My name is Prickly.

Glad to make your acquaintance.

People throughout the ages have mistaken me for a pig, with spines attached, as my name, in several languages, attests. In German, it is “Stachelschwein” (Schwein = pig, Stachel = spine/quill), in French “porc-épic” (porc = pig, épic = spine/quill), and my English common name, porcupine, is thought to be derived from French.

I am here to tell you that I am not a pig, but a rodent! My scientific name, Erethizon dorsatum, is more ominous than quill-pig, as it translates into “one who rises in anger,” or “one with an irritating back.” Let me put one thing straight. I am NOT one who angers easily, but when provoked or threatened, I might lash out at you with my tail. My quills, though entirely soft and pliable when I am born, harden within thirty minutes of my beholding the light of the world. They are only loosely attached to me, but when slapped onto your skin, will embed themselves with the help of tiny barbs – a painful ordeal.

I did not think this up, so please, don’t blame me! But – if you or your canine companion corner me, I have no choice but to deploy this weapon.

If left alone – and I prefer to be solitary most of my life – I am busy eating my vegetables (my mother would be proud of me): fresh greens in summer, dry bark in winter. As a matter of convenience, my grocery store and bedroom are often identical. You might call me lazy, because I move very slowly, but I get ample exercise climbing up and down trees.

As I am nocturnal, I am active mostly at night, so you might not spot me often. I suspect that you notice me predominantly during the day, when I rest from the night’s labors. Since I am a good climber, and not afraid of heights, I often seek shelter high up on a branch, where you might see me snoozing. One so handsome as I needs plenty of beauty sleep.

I prefer to stay out of your way, so PLEASE stay out of mine, and admire my impossibly cute face from afar.

Dedicated to our pooch, who did not get Prickly’s memo, and who once suffered the consequences of his spiny encounter. RIP, Teddy, and stay away from those barbed beings in doggie heaven.

38 thoughts on “My Name Is Prickly

    • Thank you, Ulrike, I am glad you share my infatuation with this adorable guy.
      Porcupines are not extremely rare, but I think we often miss them, especially after the trees leaf out. I am glad I got to see and photograph this one!

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Nice photos and post. It makes me realize, I don’t think I have ever seen one, in the wild or in a zoo. But we did buy a small basket made of their quills by a First American tribe member in Canada. Now I want to see the real fellow.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. I suspect that somewhere, sometime, one might have seen you. I think we miss a lot of animals around us. A few months later, and the leaves in the canopy would have completely concealed this cute fellow.


  2. I hope that this memo is reaching many people…. especially dog owners! 😉
    I probably would freak out, should my dog have an encounter with one of these lovely creatures!
    I find the fact, that his quills harden within 30 minutes after being born, very interesting! This shows us, that nature is doing its part to protect its creatures!
    (Unfortunately not always so successfull with protecting them from us !)
    Kindest regards,

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Aw! I’m sorry for the loss of your beautiful dog. It is awfully hard for dogs to leave “quill-pigs” (I LOVE that!) alone. Porcupines skip my area in their range, probably because historically we were mostly wetlands shading into prairie. This is changing, and I see lots more trees springing up. I wonder…. I do think they are very cool but I know my little terrier would be hard to convince to leave one alone. We do have skunks in the ‘ hood. One peeked into my son’s room the other day! I often see them stroll about at dusk. Another creature I adore and sincerely hope my little dog never meets!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Our family dog had a run-in with a porcupine once. It was a very painful experience for old Tinker. I can still remember our neighbour having to hold the dog while my dad snipped and pulled the quills. Tinker never did tangle with one of Prickly’s clan again.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ich kenne sie nur aus den von mir so häufig besuchten Zoos, Auch Hagenbecks Tierpark hält sie. Meistens sehe ich sie hoch oben in den Bäumen, manchmal auch ganz nahe und dann bewundere ich ihre süßen Gesichter.
    Eine unterhaltsame Geschichte hast du geschrieben, Tanja, gewürzt mit schönen Bilder.
    Dein Hund sieht sehr hübsch aus. Er spielt jetzt mit meinen Fünfen, die schon vorausgegangen sind.
    Liebe Grüße

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bis sie mir in freier Wildbahn endlich mal begegneten, kannte ich die stacheligen Tiere auch nur vom Zoo. Auch unser Cheyenne Mountain Zoo hat welche. Ich schulde Dir übrigens immer noch einen Bericht über ihn! 😊
      Mein Mann bedauert immer, daß Hunde nicht so lange leben wie Menschen. Wir haben zwei zusammen verloren, und er einige weitere in der Vergangenheit. Du hast ja diesen traurigen Prozess noch öfter erleben müssen. Ich hoffe auch, daß sie alle zusammen durch den Hundehimmel tollen.
      Euch allen ein schönes Wochenende in Bremen. Ich wünsche Euch und uns etwas Regen!
      Liebe Grüße zurück,


  6. Awesome photos, Tanja! I learned so much about Porcupines here, thank you! Oh my, I can only imagine the pain endured with their quills. Growing up, we had a dachshund and he met up with a skunk once and a bee hive once. The skunk was just the most grossest cleanup ever, but he was in bad shape with the bee stings. He survived with antibiotics and rest, but he was a trooper, ready to take on another adventure!


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