African crested porcupine

Hystrix cristata

The African crested porcupine is the largest rodent in Africa. It lives in hilly, rocky habitats in sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and Italy. It is an herbivore. Porcupine comes from the Latin porcus for pig and spina for spine: "spiny pig." Porcupines, however, are not related to pigs.

African crested porcupine behavior and facts

  • Porcupines primarily eat roots, tubers, bark and fallen fruit, but also cultivated root crops such as cassava, potatoes and carrots. In some areas, they are agricultural pests. Farmers use dogs to hunt them or smoke them out of burrows.
  • Predators include owls, leopards and pythons. The porcupine warns predators to back off by stamping its feet, clicking its teeth and growling or hissing, while raising its quills and vibrating specialized quills to produce a rattle sound. If the predator doesn't retreat, the porcupine runs backward until it rams its attacker. Its hindquarters are the most heavily armed. Scales on the quill tips lodge in the skin of predators like fishhooks and are difficult to remove.
  • Quill lengths vary on different parts of the body, from 1 inch to 12 inches on the back. New quills grow in to replace lost ones.
  • Porcupines occupy natural shelters among roots and rocks, holes made by other animals and holes they dig. Burrows are most commonly used for family units.

From birth to death

  • Gestation: 112 days
  • 1 to 4 young are born; quills are soft at birth and harden soon afterward.
  • Weaning: 6 to 8 weeks
  • Lifespan: 20 years in captivity

Vital statistics

  • Length: 30 inches
  • Weight: 44 pounds


  • Protected under Appendix II of the Bern Convention
  • Listed on Annex IV of the EU Habitats and Species Directive, and protected under Italian national law since 1974

Porcupines, the Oregon Zoo and you

The Oregon Zoo's African crested porcupines live in the Africa Rainforest exhibit. They enjoy a diet of primate biscuits, veggies, apples, greens and browse.


Sharpie is a male African crested porcupine. He was born Aug. 6, 2006, and arrived at the Oregon Zoo on Aug.3, 2011 from the Brookfield Zoo (Chicago)...


Nolina is a female African crested porcupine born June 23, 2004. She arrived at Oregon Zoo on Aug. 3, 2011 from Brookfield Zoo (Chicago)...