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African pygmy hedgehog (Erinaceus albiventris / Atelerix albiventris)

The name of this little animal tells us a lot about its origin – Africa – but they are present throughout Europe, Asia and New Zealand. Europe is also home to the common hedgehog, much larger than our little friend.

African pygmy hedgehog weighs some 450 to 600 grams and has a lifespan of three years in its natural habitat. Kept as a pet, it can live up to eight or nine years. We do not take wild animals as pets, we breed them. The controlled breeding yielded a tame and lovely little animal that comes in several colours: starting from completely white, to off-white and brown, with grey as its natural colour. The African pygmy hedgehog’s spines are noticeably shorter that the common hedgehog’s.

In nature, they are solitary animals, but when kept as pets and under supervision when adapting to other animals, several of them can be kept in an adequate space, although it is much easier to have only one animal. The gender is not important, but one should have in mind that males are somewhat larger than females. African pygmy hedgehogs can be kept in cages with deeper trays or in glass terrariums, because they have a habit of messing up the bedding. Woodshavings, newspaper or special bedding may be used as the substratum.

African pygmy hedgehog’s diet is not complicated as they are omnivores – when in nature, they eat insects, earthworms, snails, fruit and vegetables. At home, we can offer them cat food, insects used for feeding reptiles and almost all fruit and most vegetable species. They can occasionally be given a boiled egg and low-fat cheese. Fresh water is mandatory, as well as water bottles, as they often topple their bowls. They can also be allowed to roam through the apartment under supervision, because they are curious and research-oriented animals, whose teeth pose no threat to electric cables or furniture. In time, they start recognising the voice of their human companions, to which they gladly answer, allowing the companion to scratch parts of their bodies not covered with spines. African pygmy hedgehog is not recommended as a pet for small children because of its spines and because it is a nocturnal animal, so it is not very friendly during the day. It is actually an ideal pet for busy people who go to bed late at night.

Jurek and katica chickens – Croatian dwarf chicken (Gallus gallus)

Dwarf chickens are bred in our region for centuries, as can be confirmed by their names that vary according to region: they are called kredlinka in Slavonia, cverglini in Zagorje, čučurićki in Medjimurje and Podravina, and turčinci in Posavina and Moslavina. That very name, turčinci (i.e. the Turks), reveals their origin, leading us to believe they have been brought by the Turks during their invasion.

Males of dwarf chicken weigh some 700 to 900 grams, they have beautiful, colourful plumage and a proud stance. Their tails are high and well-feathered. They are very brave and watchful guardians of their flock, who do not tolerate other roosters and even dare to attack and chase away much bigger roosters that come across their way.

The hen features less prominent colouring and weighs some 600 to 800 grams. It also has a nice stance and is a caring mother. Over the course of a year, it lays 100 to 120 eggs weighing 25 to 30 grams. It gladly sits on the eggs and successfully hatches chickens, which is often used by the breeders to use its to lay on up to ten eggs of larger breeds, as they are sure that it would successfully hatch the chickens. The hen often suddenly disappears, showing up after several weeks with ten or so chickens it hatched at a secluded place where it had laid the eggs. Dwarf chickens are very resistant to weather conditions and diseases, so they often spend nights outside on trees.

The diet of these animals is simple – they eat grains, occasionally soaked dry bread and enjoy different vegetables. Considering they like wandering about the yard and the neighbourhood, they tend for their feeding needs on their own, eating earthworms, snails and various insects. It contributes to the excellent quality of their eggs, with yolks being significantly larger and thicker than in the eggs of other chickens.

If we tame jurek and katica since young age by feeding and petting them, they become loving pets who respond when they are called, cuddle and strut, gladly jumping onto the hand or a shoulder of their human friend.

Pony (Equus caballus)

Pony belongs to the horse family and is the smallest of all breeds. The smallest of the ponies is Falabella, reaching only up to 70 cm. The most famous of all 16 pony breeds is Shetland pony, originating from the Scottish islands of the same name. It differs from other pony breeds by height, ranging from 80 to 107 cm. In addition, it has a thicker and longer hairs, tail and mane. It has a firm and safe steps, relatively big and tough hoofs and short legs.

The climate of Shetland Isles is harsh, so the natural selection had played its role in the development of that small, but extraordinarily resistant and strong horse. Due to their pygmy growth and huge strength, they had even been used as pit ponies to pull carts in the mines. In time, humans rounded up the today’s appearance of the pony that comes in all colours. In addition, their temper is stable. They are very intelligent, but it takes a lot of persistence and knowledge to train them, as they can become spoiled and obstinate. If the training is done well, we get a lovely pet a child can ride, which is thus often used as a therapy animal for people with disabilities.

If we want to have a male, it should be castrated because it can act unpredictably when sexually mature. Females do not exhibit such issues, but it would be good to let them have offspring at least once to ensure their regular bodily and hormonal development. It is really nice to see how they care for the foals as they are devoted mothers.

Pony can easily stand life in the open and enjoys being outside, but we have to prepare indoor area where it can sleep and to protect it from the cold to some extent, where it would be fed hay and grain and have water at its disposal. They enjoy treats – carrot, apple, a lump of sugar or the produced treats. They are good as a reward for a right behaviour or to make friends, but they should not be excessively used – juicy grass is much more appropriate food for ponies.

Vietnamese pot-bellied pig (Sus scrofa domesticus)

As in the case of numerous other animals, the Croatian name of the species reveals the origin of our little friend. In the wild, it lives in Asia, mainly Vietnam. Out of all domesticated pig species, the Vietnamese pot-bellied pig is genetically most similar to its wild predecessors. Its more extensive breeding began in the middle of the past century, predominantly as a pet. During the breeding process, other pygmy breeds had been “added” due to their hair colour and body shape. In their homeland, they are breed for food.

The Vietnamese pot-bellied pig weighs up to 50 kg, which largely depends on the type and quantities of food. Its lifespan averages 15 years and it grows until the age of four. In addition to its pygmy growth, one of the main differences compared to other pig species is its large belly as a consequence of their feeding in wilderness. More precisely, the pigs had been eating food of little nutritional value, so they had to consume large quantities of such food in order to sustain themselves.

The colour of their hairs, i.e. the bristles is usually black, but there are some multi-coloured specimens as well. They reach sexual maturity between 4 and 5 months of age and males should be castrated as they can be aggressive. These pigs have relatively large tusks that should be trimmed by the veterinarian, who should also clip their hooves that grow like our nails.

Vietnamese pot-belied pigs are highly intelligent and social. In addition, they can easily learn various tricks. They are readily accustomed to harness and leash, so we can take them for walks. They eat everything they are given, predominantly plant food, but they do not refuse other types of food either. The food should rather be uncooked, unsalted and unseasoned. It is advisable to discover what serves as a treat and use that food for training. We should be careful what they eat, as Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs are prone to gaining excessive weight. Due to that reason, they should be fed low-calory and voluminous foods. Vietnamese pigs love exploring, which can easily be used as a reason to go for walks that would connect us to our little friend and help them not to gain weight and remain in shape. If we allow them to untended areas, they will gladly roll in the mud just as any other pig.

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