Mike Unwin
United Kingdom UK
Oct 5, 2015 October 5, 2015

Mike is an award winning wildlife writer, editor of Travel Zambia magazine and author of the Bradt Guide to Southern African Wildlife.

Category: African Wildlife

Cape porcupine (Hystrix africaeaustralis)

The Cape porcupine grows up to a meter long and 20kg in weight. This is the world’s largest porcupine – and also by far the largest rodent in Africa. However, these dimensions are not as impressive as the sight of the animal itself. It's a vision to behold as it trundles along, beneath a quivering battery of spines – like a bush on legs. And a bush to avoid!

5 Fascinating Facts

  • #1. All porcupines (and the Cape porcupine is no exception) have banded quills which are essentially their hairs. Those on the back may be 40cm long; the shorter, open-ended tail quills will rattle as a warning.
  • #2. Contrary to popular myth, a porcupine’s quills will not fire at enemies but rather will loosely embed in their skin and they easily shed on contact. When threatened, a porcupine erects its quills and backs towards its assailant. Consequently, careless predators may end up with quills so deeply embedded that fatal wounds can develop.
  • #3. Porcupines feed on roots, bulbs and bark. As a result, their habit of fatally ring-barking trees has a significant ecological impact because it helps open up woodland into savanna.
  • #4. Porcupines often gnaw bones because they need their minerals and also to sharpen their powerful incisors.
  • #5. Porcupines form monogamous pairs, which mate throughout the year. The male plays an unusually active role in raising the litter of 2–4 young. Each pair may inhabit up to six burrows and jointly defend its shared territory.
  • Indigenous to South Africa, the Cape porcupine can be seen near vegetation at sea level to 2000m above sea level, usually in rocky hill areas. Furthermore, if you see one, enjoy the view from afar. You won't want to get too friendly with these prickly creatures!

Explore the exotic

African wildlife – big and small – is worth seeing. So, pack up some gear, grab your best camera and then book a safari tour! Finally, if you need more information or travel advice, don't hesitate to contact SafariBookings here.