Mexican Dwarf Hairy Porcupine

Sphiggurus mexicanus

Order: Rodentia

Husbandry Information

Housing Requirements

Diet Requirements

  • Zupreem Primate, sweet potatoes, carrots.
  • In the wild, these porcupines prefers fruits and seeds, but they also eat leaves and buds.

Veterinary Concerns

Notes on Enrichment & Training


Colony or Breeding Management


Individual Identification


Programmatic Information


Temperature Guidelines



Tips on Presentation

Touching Techniques

Tips on Handling


Potential Messaging

  • Shade-grown coffee: The original coffee plants that were cultivated could not withstand much sunlight and were therefore grown beneath the canopy of the forest. Due to the popularity of coffee, most strains of coffee plants have been cultivated over time to withstand full sunlight. This has created large-scale deforestation for coffee plantations. Please ask guests to choose organic shade-grown coffee in which the plants are grown beneath the forest canopy, preserving arboreal habitat for tamarins, marmosets, sakis, binturongs, and birds while the forest floor is being used for human purposes. Look for coffee that is Rainforest Alliance Certified or marked “Organic Shade-Grown”.

Acquisition Information


Comments from the Rating System

  • Philadelphia Zoo: Slower to train and harder to motivate than other porcupines, but will do the basics well (crating, targeting)
  • Toledo Zoo: We do demonstrations with it on a glove; because of that, his handling can be difficult for beginner handlers.

Natural History Information

Range and Habitat

Mexican dwarf hairy porcupines live in southern Mexico to Western Panama. They favor high elevation forests, but are sometimes found in lowland habitats as well.

Physical Description

Dark brown to black porcupine with fur covers most of the long spines on the body. The head is marked by yellowish spines that are visible through the fur, and by light-colored fur tufts near each ear. The long tail lacks quills and is modified for use as a prehensile appendage. Hands and feet are specialized for climbing in cooperation with their tail.
Adults range from 21.5 to 31.5 in with a tail about a third to two-fifths of that total length, and weigh about 3–5.5 lb.

Life Cycle

Little is known about their life cycle. A typical litter probably numbers just one. Young are precocial, born with hair and soft quills, which quickly stiffen to provide a level of defense.
Average lifespan is 12 to 17 years.


Nocturnal and arboreal, these porcupines spend their days sleeping in vegetation among branches, in tree hollows, or in bamboo undergrowth, although some evidence suggests they might also utilize dens and caves. Mexican dwarf hairy porcupines are usually solitary; males will fight with other males, but will tolerate females.

Threats and Conservation Status

Mexican dwarf hairy porcupines are not threatened. Common predators include snakes, harpy eagles, jaguar, coyote, humans. Mexican hairy dwarf porcupines are used as food in many parts of Mexico and Central America.

Did you know…

  • Porcupine quills are stiff, hollow hairs. Quills come out easily, part of this animal’s defense. The quills are barbed and are very difficult to remove once they have penetrated skin.
  • The name “porcupine” comes from Middle French porc d’espine “thorny pig.”




Contributors and Citations

  • The Philadelphia Zoo
  • Houston Zoo, Natural Encounters

By Patrick Gijsbers –, CC BY-SA 4.0,