Indian crested porcupine

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Indian crested porcupine
Hystrix indica (Indian Crested Porcupine) at IG Zoological park, Visakhapatnam 03.JPG
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Hystricidae
Genus: Hystrix
Species: H. indica
Binomial name
Hystrix indica
Kerr, 1792

The Indian crested porcupine (Hystrix indica), or Indian porcupine, is a large species of hystricomorph rodent (order Rodentia) belonging to the Old World porcupine family, Hystricidae.[1] It is native to southern Asia and the Middle East.[1]


The Indian crested porcupine is a large rodent, weighing 11–18 kg.[2] Their body (from the nose to the base of the tail) measures between 70–90 cm, with the tail adding an additional 8–10 cm.[3] The lifespan of wild Indian crested porcupines is unknown, but the oldest known captive individual was a female that lived to be 27.1 years old.[2]

It is covered in multiple layers of modified hair called quills, with longer, thinner quills covering a layer of shorter, thicker ones.[2] The quills are brown or black with alternating white and black bands.[4] They are made of keratin and are relatively flexible.[4] Each quill is connected to a muscle at its base, allowing the porcupine to raise its quills when it feels threatened.[4] The longest quills are located on the neck and shoulder, where the quills form a "skirt" around the animal.[4] These quills can grow up to 51 cm (20 in) long,[4] with most measuring between 15–30 cm.[5] Smaller (20 cm) and more rigid quills are packed densely on the back and rump.[4] These smaller quills are used to stab at potential threats.[4] The base of the tail contains shorter quills that appear white in color, with longer, hollow quills that the porcupine can rattle to produce a warning sound when threatened.[6] Contrary to popular belief, Indian crested porcupines (like all porcupines) cannot shoot their quills.[4]

The Indian crested porcupine has a stocky build with a low surface area to volume ratio, which aids in heat conservation.[7] It has broad feet with long claws used for burrowing.[2] Like all porcupines, the Indian crested porcupine has a good sense of smell and sharp, chisel-like incisors.[4]

Habitat and distribution[edit]

Indian crested porcupine on a rocky hillside

Indian crested porcupines are found throughout southwest and central Asia and in parts of the Middle East,[2] including Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, China, Georgia, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan,Lebanon, Nepal, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Yemen.[1] Due to their flexible environmental tolerances, Indian crested porcupines occupy a broad range of habitats.[1] They prefer rocky hillsides,[2] but are also common in tropical and temperate shrublands, grasslands, forests, plantations, and gardens.[1] Their range seems to be limited by seasonal densities of forage and the availability of suitable substrates for digging burrows.[8] More specifically, the northern range of the Indian crested porcupine is limited by minimum summer night duration: they do not occur above latitudes where minimum night duration is less than 7 hours, presumably because of the amount of foraging time required to meet their dietary needs.[9]


A captive H. indica eating plant material

Indian crested porcupines have a very broad and mostly herbivorous diet.[2] They consume a variety of natural and agricultural plant material, including roots, bulbs, fruits, grains, and tubers, along with insects and small vertebrates.[2][3][10][11][12] Because they are cecal digesters, they are able to exploit low quality forage.[13] They have also been known to chew on bones to acquire minerals, such as calcium, that aid in quill growth.[3][5] Their capability to form substantial fat reserves is a useful adaptation for living in seasonally fluctuating habitats.[7]

These porcupines can act as substantial habitat modifiers when excavating for tubers.[14][15] They are also considered serious agricultural pests in many parts of their range due to their taste for agricultural crops.[9][16] For these reasons, they are often regarded as a nuisance.[1]


Like other Old World porcupines, the Indian crested porcupine is nocturnal.[2] Both adults and weaned juveniles spend an average of 7 hours foraging every night.[9][17][18] They tend to avoid moonlight in the winter months, which could be a strategy to evade predation.[17] However, during summer months they do not avoid moonlight (likely because there are less dark hours during which to forage), but instead tend to stay closer to their dens.[17] During the day, they remain in their dens,[18][19] but throughout the winter, they occasionally emerge from their dens during daylight hours to bask in the sun.[7]

The Indian crested porcupine is semifossorial.[2] They live in natural caves or in excavated burrows.[18][19] Because they do not climb or jump well, they spend most of their lives on or under the ground.[4] However, they are good swimmers.[4]

Predators of the Indian crested porcupine include large cats,[20][21] caracals, wolves, striped hyenas, asian wild dogs, and humans.[17] When excited or scared, a porcupine stands its quills up to appear larger.[4] It can also rattle the hollow quills at the base of its tail, stomp its feet, growl, grunt, or charge backward into the threat.[4]


Indian crested porcupines mate in February and March.[22] Gestation lasts an average of 240 days.[5] A female gives birth to one brood of two to four offspring per year.[3] Young are born with open eyes and are covered in short, soft quills that harden within a few hours after birth.[2] Young are fully weaned 13–19 weeks after birth, but remain in the den with parents and siblings until sexual maturity around 2 years of age.[22] The Indian crested porcupine is usually monogamous, and both parents live in the den with their offspring throughout the year.[2]


Due to its adaptability to a wide range of habitats and food types, the Indian crested porcupine is listed by the IUCN as Least Concern as of 2008.[1][2] Populations are stable and not severely fragmented, and while population status varies across its range, in many places it is common enough to be considered a pest.[1] However, as a result of urbanization, infrastructure development, and pesticide use, suitable porcupine habitat is currently declining.[2]

The Indian crested porcupine is protected under the India Schedule IV of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, amended up to 2002.[2] Nonetheless, because they are destructive to gardens and agricultural crops, porcupines are widely hunted.[5][23] A large trade of these porcupines exists for consumption and medicinal use.[2] Despite being considered a pest, Indian crested porcupines play an important role in spreading seeds and pollen.[2]

H. indica in a trap


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Amori, G.; Hutterer, R.; Kryštufek, B.; Yigit, N.; Mitsain, G. & Muñoz, L. J. P. (2008). "Hystrix indica". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2008. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 19 November 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q "Indian Crested Porcupine (Hystrix indica) - Information on Indian Crested Porcupine - Encyclopedia of Life". Encyclopedia of Life. Retrieved 2015-11-19. 
  3. ^ a b c d Prater, Stanley Henry (1965). The Book of Indian Animals. Bombay: Diocesan Press. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Indian Crested Porcupine". San Diego Zoo. Retrieved 2015-11-19. 
  5. ^ a b c d Gurung, K.K.; Singh, R. (1996). Field Guide to the Mammals of the Indian Subcontinent. San Diego: Academic Press. 
  6. ^ Ellerman, J.R. (1961). The Fauna of India. New Delhi: Manager of Publications. 
  7. ^ a b c Alkon, Philip U.; Degen, A. Allan; Cohen, Anat; Pollak, Haya (1986-05-01). "Seasonal Energy Requirements and Water Intakes of Indian Crested Porcupines (Hystrix indica) in Captivity". Journal of Mammalogy. 67 (2): 333–342. JSTOR 1380887. doi:10.2307/1380887. 
  8. ^ Gorbunov, A.V. (1985). "Features of the ecology of porcupines in the deserts of eastern Prikaspia". Soviet Journal of Ecology. 16: 248–253. 
  9. ^ a b c Alkon, Philip U.; Saltz, David (1988-05-01). "Foraging Time and the Northern Range Limits of Indian Crested Porcupines (Hystrix indica Kerr)". Journal of Biogeography. 15 (3): 403–408. JSTOR 2845271. doi:10.2307/2845271. 
  10. ^ Arslan, Atilla (2008). "On the Indian crested porcupine, Hystrix indica (Kerr, 1792) in Turkey". Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences. 11: 315–317. doi:10.3923/pjbs.2008.315.317. 
  11. ^ Gutterman, Yitzchak; Herr, Nir (1981-01-01). "Influences of porcupine (Hystrix indica) activity on the slopes on the northern Negev mountains — Germination and vegetation renewal in different geomorphological types and slope directions". Oecologia. 51 (3): 332–334. ISSN 0029-8549. doi:10.1007/BF00540902. 
  12. ^ Kadhim, Abdul-Hassain H. (1997-01-01). "Distribution and reproduction of the Indian Crested Porcupine Hystrix indica (Hystricidae: Rodentia) in Iraq". Zoology in the Middle East. 15 (1): 9–12. ISSN 0939-7140. doi:10.1080/09397140.1997.10637731. 
  13. ^ Hanley, Thomas A. (1982-03-01). "The Nutritional Basis for Food Selection by Ungulates". Journal of Range Management. 35 (2): 146–151. JSTOR 3898379. doi:10.2307/3898379. 
  14. ^ Olsvig-Whittaker, L.; Shachak, M.; Yair, A. (1983-11-01). "Vegetation patterns related to environmental factors in a Negev Desert watershed". Vegetatio. 54 (3): 153–165. ISSN 0042-3106. doi:10.1007/BF00047104. 
  15. ^ Yair, A.; Shachak, M. (1982-09-01). "A case study of energy, water and soil flow chains in an arid ecosystem". Oecologia. 54 (3): 389–397. ISSN 0029-8549. doi:10.1007/BF00380008. 
  16. ^ Hafeez, Shahid; S., Khan, G.; Ashfaq, Muhammad; H., Khan, Z. "Food habits of the Indian crested porcupine (Hystrix indica) in Faisalabad, Pakistan.". Retrieved 2015-11-20. 
  17. ^ a b c d Alkon, Philip U.; Mitrani, David Saltz (1988-02-25). "Influence of Season and Moonlight on Temporal-Activity Patterns of Indian Crested Porcupines (Hystrix indica)". Journal of Mammalogy. 69 (1): 71–80. ISSN 0022-2372. doi:10.2307/1381749. 
  18. ^ a b c Alkon, P. U.; Saltz, D. (1985-12-01). "Potatoes and the Nutritional Ecology of Crested Porcupines in a Desert Biome". Journal of Applied Ecology. 22 (3): 727–737. JSTOR 2403225. doi:10.2307/2403225. 
  19. ^ a b Harrison, D.L. (1972). The Mammals of Arabia. 3. London: Ernest Benn. 
  20. ^ Kingdon, J.S. (1974). East African Mammals. 2. London: Academic Press. 
  21. ^ Owens, Mark; Owens, Delia (1984-01-01). Cry of the Kalahari. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 0395647800. 
  22. ^ a b van Aarde, R.J. (1985). "Reproduction in captive female Cape porcupines (Hystrix africaeaustralis)". Journal of Reproduction and Fertility. 75: 577–582. doi:10.1530/jrf.0.0750577. 
  23. ^ Qumsiyeh, Mazin B. (1996-01-01). Mammals of the Holy Land. Texas Tech University Press. ISBN 9780896723641.