The Cape porcupine is a member of the genus hystrix. Cape porcupines are the largest porcupines in the world, just shading their African cousin, the crested porcupine and only larger on average than the Indian porcupine by weight. The prickly animals are by far the largest rodent on the African continent.
The cape porcupine can be distinguished from the crested porcupine as the latter has a ring of white spines thickly scattered around the bottom of it’s lower rump.
Males and females do not vary much in weight and size. Cape porcupines typically grow to 63 to 81 centimetres (25 to 32 inches) in length from the tail to the head and with the largest of the genus weighing at 30 K gs (60 lbs).
Cape porcupines spines grow from the tail, top of the thighs, over the back, up to the shoulders and grow to 50 cm, 20 inches in length. Stubby and stronger, pointed spines for defense (30 cm 12 inches), intermittently grow along the back to the tip of the tail for defensive purposes.
Of four squat legs and a stocky body the cape porcupine shuffles across the savannah. The five claws on each foot are ideally designed for digging up roots and pulling off tree bark. They have small brown eyes which are adapted for nocturnal vision. Muscles under the skin allow porcupines to quickly raise or lower their quills.
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The Habits of a Cape Porcupine
Cape porcupines live off tree bark, tubers, roots, fruit and bark. Wild-horned cucumbers and pumpkins. They sometimes feed on crops, to the annoyance of farmers. Their bark stripping of trees plays an important role in preventing savannahs becoming dense forest.
They are monogamous, bringing up any offspring together and inhabiting several burrows at one time. The male plays an important role in raising the typical litter of two to four. The younglings are fully grown within one year.
Cape Porcupine’s Habitat
They prefer open rocky ground but sometime can be found in forests and infrequently in desert like savannahs. They are present in southern and central Africa including: The Congo, Kenya, Uganda.
Fantastic Facts About Cape Porcupines
The Cape porcupine is capable of defending itself against even a pride of lions. Its spines can damage the eyes and noses of lions and sometimes even kill a large cat by piercing the heart. When the Cape porcupine is not in the mood for conflict it will scurry, with its back quills erect to the protective shelter of its burrow.
Cape Porcupine in Literature
At the last second, Hwange’s (the porcupine’s) eyes slid to a puddle. Silver eyes and shining canines reflected. Hwange dropped his skull, splayed his spikes straight and steadfast. In a perfect line, a dozen spears pierced number two’s paws, and throat. Number two plummeted backward into the black, bawling like a kitten. Two slid downward with a yelp that rose as high acacia tops.
The porcupine had an invincible air about him, ghost-like, as if he was a mere spectator, invincible and untouchable by the horrors subjected to animals by illness, murder, theft or loss on the mortal plains.E.G. Price, The Zambezi Allies