Porcupines undergo several stages of courting process before they engage in copulation. Shadle, Smelzer and Metz reported one peculiar mating ritual in their 1946 study on the North American Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum). They observed that the male porcupine would approach the female with his penis fully erected and spray her with high-pressure jets of urine. In one encounter, the forceful stream of urine was noted to have shot as far as 6 feet and 7 inches from the spot where the male porcupine stood. In less than a minute, the female may be thoroughly drenched from nose to tail.
It is still unclear what is the scientific or biological function behind this unusual male urine-hosing of the female. Manono (2006) suggested that males do it to soften the female porcupines’ quills enough before mounting on her for copulation. Personally, I feel the males do so to test for the female’s reaction on whether she’s ready to mate or not. Research has shown that female porcupines will express objection to reject the male’s advances.
Another study on the North American Porcupine by Spalsbury (1956) reported the same unusual courting behavior in male porcupines. He observed, in one encounter, that this behavior thoroughly terrified the young female porcupine and caused her to run to a corner of the cage where she buried her head between her front legs. The male trailed after her and tried to sniff her genital organs, but she whacked him in the face with her tail.
More pictures of the North American Porcupine
“Erethizon dorsatum (North American Porcupine),” by Arthur Chapman. Hosted on Flickr.com, 5 October 2009. URL: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3440/3986448936_55c9cc7445.jpg (accessed on 28 March 2010).
“Erethizon dorsatum (North American Porcupine),” by Arthur Chapman. Hosted on Flickr.com, 5 October 2009. URL: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3487/3986441854_cfff370d50.jpg (accessed on 28 March 2010).
“Erethizon dorsatum (North American Porcupine),” by Arthur Chapman. Hosted on Flickr.com, 5 October 2009. URL: http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2484/3986445266_a993137441.jpg (accessed on 28 March 2010).
“Hunting Down Porcupines to Earn a Living”, by Clifford Manono. Kisii.com, 9 April 2006. URL: http://www.kisii.com/portal/index.php?/Hunting-Down-Porcupines-to-Earn-a-Living.html (accessed on 28 March 2010).
Spalsbury, J.R., 1956. Unusual Sex behavior of a Male Porcupine, Erethizon dorsatum epixanthum. Journal of Mammalogy, 37 (3): 452-453.
Shadle, A.R., Smelzer, M. & Metz, M., 1946. The Sex Reactions of Porcupines (Erethizon d. dorsatum) before and after Copulation. Journal of Mammalogy, 27 (2): 116-121.