hedgehogs


hedgehogs
   It was widely believed that hedgehogs sucked cows' udders; old churchwardens' accounts record payments of a few pence per head for killing them. There was vigorous debate between those who called this 'a venerable superstition', possibly caused by seeing hedgehogs curled up alongside sleeping cows for warmth, and those who thought it true (N&Q 6s:8 (1883), 32-3, 117-18, 217; 12s:4 (1918), 140; 12s:5 (1919), 105, 160-1, 304). It was also thought that hedgehogs sucked birds' eggs, and would carry off fallen fruit on their bristles, or even climb trees to get it; also, that they would block up any opening of their burrows on the side from which the wind would next blow. In Yorkshire hedgehogs were sometimes said to be *famil-iars, or witches in animal form; such a hedgehog would run as fast as a hare, and could never be caught or shot (Blakeborough, 1898: 198).
   A saying, 'Off we go again, as the Hedgehog said to the Devil', is explained by the following *fable: a hedgehog once wagered he could outrun the Devil in racing up and down a ditch at night. He curled himself up at one end, while a second hedgehog did likewise at the other; the Devil rushed to and fro, but at either end of the ditch he always found a hedgehog there, saying 'Off we go again!' Eventually, the Devil dropped dead with exhaustion (Leather, 1912: 357).

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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