Porcupine Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Diane Sieverson

Diane has taught all subjects at the elementary level, was the principal of a K-8 private school and has a master's degree in Measurement and Evaluation.

Porcupines are animals that have a very special kind of hair and are found in many parts of the world. Come learn about porcupines, why their hair is unique, how they live and other cool facts about them.

What Is a Porcupine?

Imagine walking along and seeing what looks like a beaver with very long hair. The hair looks soft so you decide to get a closer look. Suddenly, the animal sees you and that hair promptly pops up, making the animal look much bigger than it really is. It may look soft, but that hair is needle-sharp and should not be touched. You've just met a porcupine!

A porcupine is a small animal that has a coat of needle-like spines mixed in with its fur. There are different kinds of porcupines, but they are all in the same rodent family and are related to other rodents, including mice, squirrels and rats.

Porcupine
Porcupine

Porcupines come in different sizes, and the biggest can grow to be as long as about 3 feet and weigh up to 77 pounds, which is about the same as a large dog. In the wild, they can live to be as old as 15 years.

Look But Don't Touch

Those needle-like spines we mentioned earlier are actually called quills. Quills are special hairs covered in thick material called keratin (the same material your fingernails are made of). Porcupines can have as many as 30,000 quills, and they are hollow and very sharp, covering most of a porcupine's body.

Porcupine with quills sticking up
Porcupine with quills sticking Up

The porcupine uses these quills for protection against predators. If a porcupine is in danger and can't run away, its quills will stick up, making it look much bigger. The porcupine will also make a loud noise to scare off the enemy.

If that doesn't work, the porcupine will sometimes run backwards into an enemy and jam those pointy quills into its skin. The quills hurt, are hard to take out and usually send an enemy running, sometimes even killing it. Quills lost in battle will regrow, just like your hair.

What Do Porcupines Eat?

Porcupines are considered herbivores because they only eat plants. They are nocturnal, meaning they are most active at night, which is when they go in search of dinner.

These animals have big, sharp front teeth that keep growing as long as they are alive. They need them to eat things like tree bark, shrubs, flowers, berries, nuts and roots. They also chew on bones, which helps them keep their teeth sharp and gives them the salt they need.

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