Erinaceids have little economic importance. As a group, the gymnures are not well known and have little use to humans save occasional use in laboratory experiments. Hedgehogs, on the other hand, have been used to a limited extent by humans throughout history. The meat of hedgehogs is good, but while most species are sometimes eaten as bushmeat or feature in tra
ditional country dishes they are not bred in captivity for this (or any other) purpose. There is a strong association between hedgehogs and European gypsies, who not only eat the animal's meat, but also regard it as an ally against malign mochadi entities such as cats and non-gypsy people.
Hedgehog body parts have been used by many cultures in traditional healing, magic and witch doctoring. The meat has been purported to have cleansing properties and various body parts have apparently been used in the treatment of ailments including leprosy, boils, colic and baldness.
Hedgehogs also appear widely in folklore. They are mentioned in the writings of Pliny and Shakespeare and famous hedgehogs include Mrs. Tiggywinkle, the bustling, petticoated washerwoman in the story by Beatrix Potter and Sonic the Hedgehog—the manic blue-spined hero of the computer game by Sega.
Hedgehogs are among the few wild mammals that have adapted to life alongside people in towns. They are kept as pets and are welcome visitors to gardens, where they help out by eating invertebrate pests. Many people put out food specially for hedgehogs and enjoy watching their spiny visitors dining on bread and milk or canned dog food from a saucer on the back lawn.
1. Malayan moonrat (Echinosorex gymnura); 2. Lesser gymnure (Hylomys suillus); 3. Mindanao gymnure (Podogymnura truei); 4. Long-eared hedgehog (Hemiechinus auritus); 5. Indian desert hedgehog (Paraechinus micropus); 6. Western European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus); 7. Southern African hedgehog (Atelerix frontalis); 8. Daurian hedgehog (Mesechinus dauuricus). (Illustrated by Marguette Dongvillo)
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