The Colors of Live Hedgehogs

Updated April 17, 2017

The colour variation of hedgehogs has exploded as people started breeding them for specific colours. In the wild, African pygmy hedgehogs are usually found with variations of the standard "salt and pepper" colour, while European hedgehogs are a mottled dusty brown. The International Hedgehog Association (IHA) currently recognises two general colour ranges for pet hedgehogs -- white-bellied and Algerian -- with many colour variations within each type.

Differentiating White-bellied from Algerian

The easiest way to determine the colour is first figure out if you have a white-bellied or Algerian colour strain. Looking first at the nose, white-bellied hedgehogs have a mask only on their nose, while in Algerians the mask extends up around their eyes, giving them eye and cheek patches. Second, look at the quills that extend from the forehead to see there is a distinct separation between the two colours, which is commonly found in the white-bellied hedgehog. Third, check the skin colour on the back and belly. In white-bellied hedgehogs, the skin colour on the back is lighter for the colour classification, and there is less or no mottling on the belly.

IHA Color Classifications

Within each colour type -- white-bellied or Algerian -- there are a number of standard colour classifications that are further broken down. Algerian colours always include "Algerian" in the title to differentiate from the white-bellied. White-bellied standard colours include salt and pepper, dark grey, grey, chocolate, brown, cinnamon, dark cinnicot, black-eyed cinnicot, ruby-eyed cinnicot, champagne, apricot, and pale apricot. These are repeated for the Algerian standard colours, with the exception of salt and pepper, which is instead the Algerian black. Snowflake and white are the two other colour categories that are further broken down by the standard colours, such as dark cinnicot white, or Algerian cinnicot snowflake.

Albino and Pinto

Albino hedgehogs do not have any colour pigmentation, placing them in a separate colour category. Their quills and fur are all completely white with no banding or mottling. The skin and nose are pink, and their eyes are red. Due to all the cross breeding, some hedgehogs are born with combinations of colours. These are called pinto, and are identifiable because they have white quills, usually along the sides, with a patch of coloured quills along the top of their back.

Genetic Color Classification

Further research into the genetics behind the colours has resulted in another colour classification system based on those used in general domestic mammal breeding programs, such as dogs and horses. This is an attempt to further standardise the colour classifications, basing them on genetics rather than observation, but has not, as of 2011, been officially recognised by the International Hedgehog Association. The categories are broken down into the base colours -- chestnut and cinnamon; the sepia-orange dilutes -- tawny, argente, cinnicot, apricot; the blue-fawn dilutes -- opal, blue-amber, amber, lilac, lilac-cream, cream; and albinism.

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About the Author

Heather Lindsay is a stained glass artist who holds a master's degree in library science, a bachelor's degree in anthropology with a minor in art, and has enjoyed working in special libraries with photograph collections.