It may seem incredible today but the hedgehog was once seen as vermin by farmers, being labelled quite often as 'prickly back othcuns'. The animal was killed on sight as it was believed that the hedgehog sucked milk from cows threatening livelihoods. As a result the animal was viewed as an ill omen, one that attracted misfortune wherever it was found.
The hedgehog as often been seen as a weather barometer in the British Isles and is detailed in this work:
‘Observe which way the hedgehog builds her nest,
To front the north or south, or east or west;
For if ‘tis true what common people say,
the wind will blow quite contrary way.
If by some secret art the hedgehogs know,
So log before, which way the winds will blow,
She has an art which many a person lacks,
That thinks himself fit to make almanacs’.
‘Poor Richard’s Almanac’ : 18-century American evidence
As it hibernates during the winter months the hedgehog’s appearance has led to many beliefs on why is appears at a certain time of the year. If it returns to hibernation it was thought that the worst of the winter weather was not yet over with a re-emergence expected some six weeks later. The appearance of the hedgehog was thought to be at Candlemas (February 2), the end of the Pagan festive season. It is alleged that similar beliefs were traditionally associated with the woodchuck and the groundhog in America.
The hedgehog is a county symbol for Hertfordshire in England (UK).