Last week, we went to the Eastern States Hedgehog Show in La Plata, Md. Hedgehog conventions are like dog shows except better, because they have hedgehogs in them. People brought their hedgies from all over the country to participate in the Best in Show competition, meet other hedgies and hedgie-people, and just generally have a great time. It was awesome. Here is what we learned:
1. The first rule of Hedgie-Con is that you better be ready to enjoy yourself.
Everyone put signs on their hotel room doors with pictures of their hedgehogs. It was like a bunch of dressing rooms for hedgehog celebrities.
2. Hedgehogs come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, each with a technical name, like pinto or charcoal, to describe what “hedgehog class” they are in.
These hedgehogs were meeting for the first time. They seemed pretty chill about it.
3. At first we thought the judge was just being whimsical when she was calling certain hedgehogs “a beautiful snowflake,” but it turns out “snowflake” is actually a technical classification.
This hedgie isn’t a snowflake though, she’s a pale apricot.
4. But ALL hedgehogs are beautiful.
Everyone is super accepting at a hedgehog convention, and they always have a kind word to say about one others’ hedgehogs.
5. ESPECIALLY when they are wearing little hats. Hedgies look GREAT in hats.
Hedgehogs wearing hats is a thing. The hedgehogs in hats competition this year was held in honor of a hedgehog named Prince Harrison, who was known for being quite a hat-fancier.
6. Hedgehog owners hate the name Sonic. If you have a hedgehog, you better be creative with the name. The best name at this convention was Sir Felix Gaylord Whumplebunch.
7. But it does turn that they are a blur when they run, just like Sonic himself.
They are also very difficult to photograph, because they are always scampering around everywhere like they are late for an important meeting.
8. Hedgehogs aren’t pets; they’re “quill kids.”
A lot of people refer to their hedgies as their “kids” or their “quill kids.” When the hedgehog judge told us that she had to “leave her kids at home,” it took us a while to figure out that she was talking about her own hedgehogs. It’s pretty adorable.
9. You can also call them “hedgies” or “pogs.”
10. And their humans aren’t owners; they’re “guardians.”
Or “hoomins.” Sometimes hedgehog people refer to themselves as “hoomins.”
11. After a while, hedgehogs and their guardians start to look a lot alike.
This lady, along with her hedgehog, Thorny, wins the “Hedgehog/Human lookalike” competition pretty much every year. She really knocks it out of the park.
12. A hedgie-con is a really big deal if you’re a hedgehog person. People traveled from all over the country to show off their hedgehog pride.
These people had traveled all the way from Canada. They wouldn’t miss a hedgehog convention for the world.
13. Hedgehogs are kind of messy…
14. … but that’s OK, because they are also insanely cute.
15. Even when they only have three legs. ESPECIALLY when they only have three legs. This three-legged badass is called Valkyrie.
16. Hedgehogs like to be as close to their humans as possible.
This is Brian. He told us that he likes to handle his hedgehogs shirtless because they like to be as close to him as possible.
17. Hedgehog judging is a serious business.
To be a hedgehog judge, you have to take hours of training.
And you have to be a junior judge at several hedgehog shows before you’re fully certified by the International Hedgehog Association.
This is Martina, the hedgehog judge. She is too good and beautiful for this world.
Martina is from Austria and she took great time and care to examine each and every pog.
She told us that she loves to judge hedgehog competitions not just because she loves hedgehogs, but because she knows it makes the events so much more special for the owners.
She worked hard to make every hedgehog feel special, while maintaining incredibly high standards for hedgehog conformity.
18. In some rounds, even when only one hedgehog is competing, he is not awarded a first place blue ribbon. This is because hedgehog standards are uncompromising.
19. The important categories for judging a hedgehog are: temperament, quill coat thickness, and whether they have a “teardrop-shaped face.”
20. It’s the job of a hedgehog guardian to make sure their hedgehog is happy while being judged.
Hedgehog guardians had their hands full trying to keep their hedgies from running off their little judging blankets to hide. This guy was really good at keeping his hedgies occupied for the judging.
21. Here is an example of a perfect hedgehog. He won first place in his class because he had a great temperament and a perfectly teardrop-shaped face.
22. When you see a perfect hedgie at a hedgehog show, you clap by raising your arms up in the air, so as not the scare the talent.
23. When hedgehogs are in a bad mood it’s called being “huffy,” and it can lose your hedgie valuable points during a show.
24. One trick to keep your hedgehog still is to blow on them gently.
25. When a hedgehog passes away, it is called “Crossing the Rainbow Bridge.”
This is a monument to a hedgehog named Speedy, who crossed the rainbow bridge last year, but not before amassing a ton of ribbons for basically kicking butt at hedgehog competitions.
26. Not all hedgehogs are hedgehogs! These animals are called “tenrecs” — they’re not hedgehogs, even though they used to be…
When the continents split, they adapted to Madagascar and learned to climb.
Sheila, who is the brains behind this entire convention, brought her two tenrecs for people to see.
27. Apparently hedgehogs like sitting on the couch with their humans, but they don’t watch the TV… they just like to watch their person.
One hedgehog guardian told us that her hedgehog sits on the couch with her while she watches her TV shows and keeps checking up on her just to make sure she is still there.
28. Hedgehogs feel safest when they’re inside their hedgie bags.
Especially if their bag is decorated with their interests in mind.
29. Hedgehogs are cutest when they’re lying on their backs.
It’s because it makes their tiny hedgehog faces look like they’re smiling coyly.
30. Which is kind of a lot of the time.
31. According to one hedgehog guardian, some boy hedgehogs get nervous around girl hedgehogs and turn themselves into balls.
32. The world’s fattest hedgehog is named Regina.
She may also be the world’s cutest hedgehog.
It’s impossible to hold Regina without feeling overwhelmingly happy.
33. Hedgehogs have crazy long tongues and they like to lick their noses.
34. Hedgehog guardians often fall into it accidentally: Regina’s grand-guardian told us that his daughter came home from college with an “unplanned hedgehog.”
“And now here we are,” he said. He also said that if someone had told him 20 years ago when he was living a wild life in New York that in 20 years time he’d be at a hedgehog convention, he’d have thought they were crazy. Even though he thought it was weird, he was extremely supportive of his daughter and her passion for hedgies.
35. Hedgehogs collect points every time they get a ribbon at a certified hedgehog show…
… and the hedgehogs with the most points are admitted to the top secret “hedgehog military.”
Yep. There is a hedgehog military and it is a REAL THING.
One person showed us all the awards that her hedgehog, Speedy, had won. Before Speedy crossed the rainbow bridge, he was the “most decorated hedgehog of all time” and a two-star general in the hedgehog military, according to his person. Pretty big deal in the hedgehog community.
36. Winning “Best In Show” is a great honor for both hedgehogs and humans.
This beautiful hedgehog won “Best In Show” after five grueling hours of hedgehog judging.