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The Hedgehog (Gráinneog ) --: The hedgehog is about ten inches long and is known to most of us ,by the strong sharp spines, which cover its back. It gets its name because it looks like a small pig or hog and it is found in hedges. The spines, which are usually white at the base, are about three quarters of an inch long and can number as many as 16,000. They act as a defence against flash-eating animals and other, enemies when they get into a fight. If they are attacked, the hedgehog rolls   itself   into   a   ball   to protect   it soft    under parts.    The   spines   which   are   really sharp   strong    hairs, are useful   to   the   animal    not    only   for protecting    it self   but   also, as   a   cushion   if   the   animal falls from a height. Hedgehog ‘s are often said to roll themselves downhill, as this is the quickest and easiest way of   reaching the bottom. I wish sometimes we could do the same, as it would be very handy for coming to school. The hedgehog has a snout (or nose), which it uses to scent the insects, worms, slugs, snails and frogs, and young birds, which are its food.

It also eats fruit, eggs and young birds. If it can find no other food, it may sometimes eat the flesh of the dead animals. While the hedgehog is common through Ireland, it is found mostly in hedgerows, wood and gardens wherever there are plenty of leaves to hide under and insects to eat. I have never seen a real hedgehog. Some boys have seen dead ones on the road. It can often be heard, sniffing its way through dry leaves in search of to make a clicking noise as it eats an insect or slug. Up to seven   young are born in nests of grass and moss. Theses nests are on   the ground in well-sheltered places, hedgerows   and   woods. Although blind   at birth, the young quickly learn to follow their mother in search of food. After   three   months they are fully-grown, there are usually two litters a year.

Like the bat, the hedgehog takes a long winter break, like some boys in our class. Before it settles in for the winter, it stores up fat in its   body by eating greedily and chooses   a cosy, frost free   sleeping place under a   tree stump, a layer of leaves or even underground.                                       

Ian   Larkin