The story of Stevie the hedgehog, our stop bullying mascot.

As I was working on the most severe case of bullying, a young boy told me that he feels like a little hedgehog at school. Let’s call the boy Stephan.

Stephan explained that everyone at school makes a big deal of the popular kids who behave like unruly buffalos and angry lions, while they are trampling all over him. He was literally kicked and scuffed around like a hedgehog-ball. The bullying went to extremes and the teachers in school didn’t believe what happened behind their backs.

I listened in amazement to what Stephan endured and that reminded me of his namesake in the Bible. In the book of Acts we read about Stephan who was one of the seven chosen to assist the apostles. He became the first Christian martyr. The beautiful thing about his name is not the pain that he went through and the way his life ended, but the meaning. Stephan means ‘crown’.

The boy, Stephan, and I went on a counselling journey to find out as much about real hedgehogs as possible because we wanted to change the narrative of his story.

Real hedgehogs

The Four-toed Hedgehog (Atelerix albiventris) lives in the forests and deserts of Africa. This hedgehog has a long, pointed snout, round eyes and oval ears. This species of hedgehog gets its name from its back feet. The back feet have only 4 toes each, while its front feet have five toes each. Curved claws make hedgehogs amazing diggers.

The hedgehog primarily depends on a strong sense of smell and exceptional hearing. Four-toed hedgehogs vocalize by hissing, growling and chirping.

Some people call this little mammal a pincushion with legs! The reason is that most mammals have fur or hair that is supple and soft. The hair on the back of a hedgehog is a thick layer of spikes known as quills. These quills are modified hairs made of keratin, the same stuff our hair and fingernails are made of.

Hedgehogs can be white or light brown to black, with several shades found in bands along with their quills. Their belly, face, and neck are covered in coarse hair. Some hedgehogs have a dark brown or black mask across their eyes

The hedgehog’s best defence against predators is its spiky outer armour, with about 5,000 to 7,000 quills covering its back. When threatened, the hedgehog raises its quills upright in a crisscross pattern, making its body pointy and sharp. Then it uses the belly muscles, back muscles, and extra skin to tuck in its head, legs, and tail to curl into a complete ball, protecting its soft belly. The solid ball of spikes is hard for predators to open, hiding its most sensitive body parts, its head, feet and belly.

Hedgehogs are active at night—but sleep all day, up to 18 hours! They also hibernate in the winter.

Quick facts

Length: 10 to 30 centimetres, depending on species.

Weight: 155 to 1,584 grams, depending on species.

Hedgehogs can travel up to 3 kilometres a day and move at a speed of up to 2 meters per second.

The hedgehog makes lots of foamy saliva in its mouth and smears it over its quills. It may do this to keep parasites off the skin or to make its quills taste bad to predators.

Hedgehogs love to eat insects, earthworms, snails, and slugs. They eat eggs, small mammals, birds, frogs, reptiles, fruit, fungi, and roots. They have also been known to eat poisonous snakes. When a desert hedgehog wants to eat a scorpion, it must first bite the stinger off the tail.

Choosing a mascot

More people started to share their stories of how they are being bullied. Most of them could only withdraw into themselves, just like the hedgehog rolls into a spiky ball for self-protection. In counselling and raising awareness to stop bullying, we helped them to see that they are not the problem. They can stand up and get assistance to say ‘no to bullying’.

As this grew into a full-fledged research project and awareness endeavour we needed a mascot. The team at Inter Trauma Nexus chose the little hedgehog and called him Stevie.

Before getting a hedgehog as a pet, please visit Christian's site.

Online Courses

There are two online workshops on the topic of bullying that may interest you: Addressing Bullying and Dealing with Cyberbullying. Completing the workshop takes about 5 hours and you can do it in your own time. Ideal for self-development, for parents, educators and all professionals. There are CPD & CPTD points allocated to both online workshops.