Cape porcupine

Hystrix africaeaustralis

Cape porcupine
Cape porcupine
IUCN Conservation Status –
Least Concern
Extinct In The Wild
Class: Mammals
Order: Rodentia
Family: Hystricidae

We have two Cape porcupines here at Newquay Zoo – brothers Harry and Harold. They came from Kirkleatham Owl Sanctuary in North Yorkshire in May 2024.

Cape porcupines come from central and southern Africa. They are the largest rodents in Africa and the biggest of all 30 porcupine species.

They live in tropical savannahs and prefer making their homes in caves and rocky crevices. They mostly eat fruits, roots, bulbs, bark and tubers.

Cape porcupines have long black and white spines, interspersed with shorter, spiky defence quills, along with a crest of long, bristly hairs that run down their head and shoulders.

Interesting facts!

  • The spines on their tails are hollow, which are used to make a rattling sound to scare off predators.
  • While Cape porcupines mostly eat plant matter, they have also been known to gnaw on carrion and bones!
  • Cape porcupines aren’t usually dangerous, but when cornered, they will use their sharply pointed defence quills to charge at their attackers.


There are no major threats to Cape porcupines. However, many farmers consider them to be a nuisance, as they are known to eat crops and strip the bark of trees, leaving them vulnerable to fungal infections.