Species of the week

This week Biodinâmica invites you to learn something more about the cape porcupine, the largest rodent over the world.

Scientific name: Hystrix africaeaustralis (Peters 1852)

Common name: cape porcupine

Kingdom: Animalia

Filo: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Rodentia

Family: Hystricidae

Genus: Hystrix

Conservation status: Least concern (LC)

Population: its population is stable and common. Although, due to the hunting pressure this species can’t be observed in certain areas anymore.

Longevity: this species can survive up to 20 years in captive.

Diet: The cape porcupine usually feeds on roots, tubers, bulbs, tree bark and some crops such as pumpkins. Although this species is known as vegetarian it was already observed feeding on animal carcasses.

Size: can reach a up to 1m in length, when adult.

Weight: varies from 10 to 24 kg.


Cape Porcupine is the largest nocturnal rodent with the body dorsally covered by strong hairs modified forming long and sharp spines at the ends with alternating black and white coloration.

Its lateral parts, the neck, the head and underparts are covered by thick black or dark brown hairs. The head and muzzle are broad and have small eyes. Their legs are short and strong and have claws. Its tail is very short and contains numerous hollow pores that act as a rattle when the animal vibrates.


Hystrix africaeaustralis is monogamous and lives in groups formed by an adult couple and their multi-generation offspring. The female has a gestation period ranging from 93 to 94 days after which 1 to 3 juveniles are born and gives offspring once per year.


This African species occurs from Kenya and south of Uganda, in the North, including Tanzania, Rwanda, Southeast Congo, the extreme south-west of Congo, Angola, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique until the southern part of the South African sub-region (although it is absent in the majority of central Botswana). There is no confirmed evidence of its occurrence on the Zanzibar´s island, Tanzania. It is found from the sea level until more than 2,000 meters above sea level.

Habitat and Ecology

Hystrix africaeaustralis can be found in several types of habitat including tropical forests, grassland, savannas and semi-arid environments throughout the African sub-regions. This animal inhabits preferably in rocky places, where it can find caves that can use as shelter during the day. It can be found in holes modified or created according to its preference.

Hystrix africaeaustralis is generally solitary and territorial but can be occasionally found in a group of two to three animals as well as can share their shelter.


There are no major threats to Hystrix africaeaustralis. This species is generally hunted and marketed for food.


There are no exclusive conservation actions to this species, but it benefits from the management of protected areas in which it occurs.


  • Their thorns are modified fur, extremely hard, that serve for its defense.
  • The porcupine can throw its thorns up to more than 30 cm of distance.





van Aarde, R. J. (1985). Reproduction in captive female Cape porcupines (Hystrix africaeaustralis). Journal of reproduction and fertility75(2), 577-582.

Van Aarde, R. J., & Skinner, J. D. (1986). Reproductive biology of the male Cape porcupine, Hystrix africaeaustralis. Journal of reproduction and fertility76(2), 545-552.

Morris, D. J., & Van Aarde, R. J. (1985). Sexual behavior of the female porcupine Hystrix africaeaustralis. Hormones and behavior19(4), 400-412.