Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



Prehensile-tailed Porcupine

Coendou prehensilis


Prehensile-Tailed Porcupine

With sharp spines, a big, round nose, and a tail they can hang from, prehensile-tailed porcupines are nocturnal vegetarian rodents. They have short, thick spines, and their body color runs from yellowish to orange-rust to brown to almost black. They weigh 4 to 11 pounds (2 to 5 kg). Their bodies are 300 to 600 millimeters long, and their tails are almost as long as their bodies, adding another 330 to 485 millimeters. Like howler monkeys, these porcupines use their prehensile tails for grasping and hanging. These tails have no spines, and the upper side near the end has a callus pad.

Home Range

Venezuela, Guiana, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Trinidad, and some extreme northern sections of Argentina




Leaves, flowers, shoots, roots, and the cambium layer found beneath the bark of some trees

Zoo Diet

The porcupines' Zoo diet includes a fruit and vegetable salad mix, monkey biscuits, and rodent blocks.


One young

Social Structure

Active at night; found in small social groups at sleeping times. Otherwise solitary or paired.

They sleep during the day in the upper canopy of trees, but they have also been found resting on lower limbs and in hollow trunks and lower burrows.

Fun Fact

In the wild, prehensile-tailed porcupines can be pretty tough. They have been known to bite and hit those who attack or try to capture them. They stamp their hind feet when excited and curl up in a ball if caught. They also sit on their haunches, shake their spines, and emit both deep growls and high-pitched cries.