Do Hedgehogs Have A Good Sense Of Smell

Do Hedgehogs Have A Good Sense Of Smell?

Do Hedgehogs Have A Good Sense Of Smell

I’ve often wondered about a hedgehogs senses, and how they find food and stay safe from predators. I know they are not well known for having good eyesight, but do hedgehogs have a good sense of smell?

I decided to do my own research on this, and below are my findings.

So do hedgehogs have a good sense of smell? Yes, hedgehogs do have a good sense of smell. They have large noses which become moist at the tip when they sense new smells. They have well developed olfactory lobes, and are capable of smelling food in soil up to 3 inches deep. They also use this sense of smell to stay safe from predators.

So as we can see the answer to the question do hedgehogs have a good sense of smell is yes. If you want to know more about exactly how they smell, if they give off their own particular scent, and more information about recognizing an owner’s scent then please read on.

Do Hedgehogs Have A Good Sense Of Smell?

Hedgehogs rely heavily on some of their senses more than others to be able to survive and find food. They rely mostly on their senses of smell and touch to navigate the terrain they live in and to hunt for all kinds of food.

They will easily sniff out any food you leave out for them, although you should be careful when doing this. Any food you leave out for a hedgehog could also attract other animals such as rats too!

Whilst their senses of smell and touch are good, their eyesight is not as strong. Being nocturnal, looking for food at night, this is not as important to them. I will discuss their eyesight in a little more detail below.

Hedgehogs do have relatively good hearing, and believe it or not have some strengths over humans in the hearing department. Again I will go into some more detail about this later.

The Hedgehogs Nose

So back to their noses, and the question do hedgehogs have a good sense of smell? Hedgehogs do have a good sense of smell, and can in fact can smell and detect food such as beetles under as much as 3 inches of soil. I think thats pretty incredible.

Hedgehogs Smelling Food

If you have ever observed any of the types hedgehogs, either in the wild or living in captivity, you will notice that they often sniff the air. In fact they do this a lot of the time. This is not a nervous twitch or anything of the sort. They are constantly smelling for changes around them. They are able to sense these changes by having a good sense of smell.

If we look at the physical appearance of a hedgehog, it is quite clear that they have quite a long nose. Now I’m not being mean here. It’s just that in proportion to the rest of them, their nose is quite large.

Again if you spend much time observing hedgehogs, you will notice that the tip, which is called a rhinarium is quite often wet. This moisture on the end of a hedgehogs nose actually helps them to smell even more accurately.

Hedgehog Nose
A hedgehog’s nose is long and can often appear wet at the tip.

The hedgehog does not just use its nose and more importantly its face for smelling things, although this is a large part of how they find food.

Leaving food out for a hedgehog can be a tricky business. It will sniff out all kinds of food, and eat it even if it is not good for it. For example, hedgehogs cannot eat pumpkin as it is bad for its stomach. It will still eat it anyway, so don’t leave this out for them.

Foods like rice are a good thing to feed hedgehogs to add to their diet, although it doesn’t really add anything of nutritional value. You can mix this with other things such as cat or dog food, or special hedgehog food too.

A large part of a hedgehogs ability to sense through touch is also centred around the nose and face.

The Hedgehogs Brain In Relation To Their Sense Of Smell

There have been several scientific studies that show proof as to why we can say a hedgehog does have a good sense of smell. Studies of a hedgehogs brain show that they have well developed olfactory lobes. These are the parts of the brain that are used in the sensing and categorizing of smells.

It would be fair to say that these have developed over time because a hedgehog makes so much use of its sense of smell to both stay safe and find food.


When a hedgehog smells something either interesting or different, it will carry out a rather odd process called self-anointing. I’ve seen a hedgehog do this in my garden, and did wonder what on earth it was doing.

Do Hedgehogs Self Anoint To Protect Themselves
Some sources say hedgehogs self anoint to cover their own scent.

When a hedgehog does this it will look like it is foaming at the mouth. It will then spread this foam or saliva all over its body in a ritual that can last upwards of half an hour.

There are several theories put forward as to why the hedgehog will do this. Now seeing as they can’t talk, and we can’t ask them directly why they do this, they are just theories.

One theory is that hedgehogs use self-anointing to mask or cover their own scent. This is something that they may do in order to hide from or protect themselves from predators.

Another competing theory is that this ritual of self-anointment is part of a hedgehogs grooming process. Hedgehogs don’t need water to clean themselves, although hedgehogs can and do sometimes swim. I guess neither of these theories really addresses the issue as to why they do this when they smell fairly normal new smells.

Do Hedgehogs Have A Scent?

So in answering the question do hedgehogs have a good sense of smell, we can see clearly that they do. But what of their own smell or scent?

Like pretty much every animal, a hedgehog does have its own scent. I’m not really sure what this smells like, as if I’m honest, I’ve never tried to smell a hedgehog.

First off I think this would look a bit weird. Secondly, I don’t fancy having my nose pierced by one of the hedgehogs several thousand spikes.

A hedgehogs scent can be used to warn off other hedgehogs. Whilst they are not territorial creatures by nature, they will not want another hedgehog sniffing around their nest. Especially if it is a female hedgehog with a litter of hoglets in her nest.

During mating season a hedgehog can and will use its scent to attract other hedgehogs. Male hedgehogs, also known as boars, are attracted by the different scent given off by the female hedgehog, also know as a sow. Male hedgehogs can also mark the ground with a scent for female hedgehogs to find.

Once hedgehogs have mated, they will go their separate ways. Males don’t hang around for female hedgehogs to give birth, or to help raise their babies. Hedgehogs are solitary creatures and do not live in groups.

Can Hedgehogs Recognize Their Owner’s Scent?

Hedgehog Smelling Owner
Hedgehog’s can recognize their owner’s scent.

Now in answering the question do hedgehogs have a good sense of smell it was a clear yes. But what about recognizing the scent of their owner? They are generally friendly creatures, and hedgehogs will not attack humans if they recongize them and don’t sense a threat.

There is much evidence to suggest that a hedgehog kept in captivity or as a pet will recongize its owners smell. They can also recognize the scent of strangers too. They can do this not just when a stranger walks into the room they are in, but also when they enter the actual house.

I mentioned before about the tip of a hedgehogs nose becoming moist when they pick up the smell of something new. This has been observed whilst watching hedgehogs in captivity when a stranger enters the place they are staying. More evidence that a hedgehog does in fact have a very good sense of smell.

How To get Hedgehogs Used To An Owner’s Scent

If you are the proud owner of a pet hedgehog, you may want to utilise their keen sense of smell to get them used to you. This helps to bond both you and your pet hedgehog together. So how can you do this?

A good way to do this is to use a piece of clothing to allow your hedgehog to get used to your smell.

You can wear something like a t-shirt to bed for a couple of nights to cover this with your scent. Without washing it, you can then place it over the cage of your hedgehog to allow them to become familiar with your scent. If you do this a few times they will begin to recognize your scent in no time at all.

You can also sleep with a piece of fleece for a few nights that could then be used as bedding in your hedgehogs cage. This will also allow them to become familiar with your scent quickly.

One problem you can easily avoid when trying to introduce yourself to your pet hedgehog is confusing it with constantly changing smells. If you change perfume, or hand wash, this can confuse a hedgehog, and slow down or disrupt the bonding process.

I would suggest washing your hands throughly before you handle your hedgehog to eliminate any extra smells that could mask your own scent. In this way, the hedgehog will only smell your scent, and will not be confused by other smells it can pick up from you.

Do Hedgehogs Have Good Hearing?

So we can see that hedgehogs have finely developed senses of both smell and touch. But what about their hearing? Studies have shown that even though hedgehogs have relatively small ears, they are capable of a good level of hearing.

They are less sensitive to sounds than other mammals, and this could be due to their small ears. However they are still able to pick up sound much better than you would expect.

They do still use their hearing in combination with their sense of smell to be able to detect predators in order to keep them safe. They are also able to listen out for and hear sounds from potential prey that they can feast on too.

In a study by Louisiana State University it was shown that a hedgehog can hear in the frequency range between 250 Hz and 45,000 Hz.

They can’t hear sounds as low pitched as humans can, as a human’s hearing frequency range starts at 64 Hz. However they do beat humans at the other end of the scale, as we can only hear up to 23,000 Hz.

Do Hedgehogs Have Good Eyesight?

In comparison to the answer of do hedgehogs have a good sense of smell being yes, the answer to the question do hedgehogs have good eyesight is really a no. Their eyes appear to be bright and alert, but don’t let this fool you.

For starters, hedgehogs have fairly small eyes.This actually works to their advantage in many ways. As their name suggests, they spend a lot of time in hedges and undergrowth.

Having small eyes protects them from constantly being poked by twigs and branches as they navigate this terrain. This stops their eyes from being pierced by these potentially hazardous objects, as there is much less surface area being exposed.

Again, due to the dense hedges and undergrowth they move around in, eyesight is not really the be all and end all for an animal such as a hedgehog. A good sense of smell and touch seems to be of much more importance.

Hedgehogs can see well enough to make out shapes and objects. Seeing as they mostly move around at night, it would seem that this is more than enough to get by. They have enough night vision to be able to distinguish moving objects, which helps to keep them safe from predators.

Summing Up

So then do hedgehogs have a good sense of smell? The answer to this is a very definite yes. They have a long nose and the end of this gets wet when they sense new smells.

Science shows that they have well developed olfactory lobes used in the processing of smells. They are able to use this well developed sense of smell to stay safe from predators, and to hunt for food.

They can smell food up to 3 inches deep in soil, which is a fair distance, and they are able to combine their keen sense of smell with good hearing and a well developed sense of touch.

If you would like to add any more information to the question do hedgehogs have a good sense of smell, or have any comments, please leave them below. Thanks for reading.

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