1. The World of the Hurcheon *

This concerns wild hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) in our garden in rural Somerset. We have lived here for over 20 years. Until last autumn (2018) I had never seen either a live or remains of a dead hedgehog in the area. Badgers used to be quite plentiful but since their wholesale slaughter was licensed by our idiotic politicians, their presence locally is currently vanishingly small. (I wish the same could be said of politicians.) The slaughter of the badgers may account for the resurgence of hedgehogs. I have no idea whether any hedgehogs have been released by humans in this area.

In early autumn 2018 we had a dog staying in the house. When I get up for a pee the dog joins me watering the garden and curses and swears at the neighbourhood cats in a shocking fashion. On the 30th Sept 2018, when the image at left was taken, as we stepped out of the back door around 2 a.m., right by the door was a hedgehog. The dog gave it a thorough sniffing but was discouraged (by me) from being any more attentive. The hurcheon crouched down a bit but did not roll into a ball. Soon after, it wandered off on urchin business, while the dog and I returned to our respective sleeping quarters.

The dog went home to her owners shortly thereafter, putting an end to nocturnal gardening for a while. I noticed no further signs of hedgehogs (but am not very observant), nor did it occur to me to look for them. However, come spring it did occur to me that hedgehogs emerging from hibernation might be grateful for a little something, which I set about supplying. Needless to say, whatever I put out in the evening was gone by next morning, but I had no idea who was the beneficiary. Establishing that will be he basis of the following posts.

urchin dinner
While the ‘hedgehog food’ was bought as a joke, we served it but it was spurned by hurcheons and cats. Placed on a bird table it went, pyots (Pica pica) the prime suspects.

* A word about hurcheon. The Shorter O.E.D. explains it is Scots for hedgehog. It occurs also in northern middle English. Variant spellings in the D.S.L. include hurch(e)oun, hurch(e)on(e), hurchun, hurtchoun, hyrcheoun, hyrcheoune, hurtcheon, hurchin, hurchint, hutchon and a few other exotics. Urchin in the Shorter O.E.D. is defined as a variant of hurcheon, again signifying a hedgehog, plus meaning a sea-urchin, a hunchback, “a pert, mischievous, or roguish youngster” or a brat. Take your pick, but here hurcheon refers exclusively to Erinaceus europaeus.