What’s the scoop?
You think your first time was awkward? Imagine being a porcupine. If you’ve ever wondered how the notoriously spiky creatures do the nasty, well, you’re not alone.
The question here has recently become more of a joke than an actual scientific proposition. When I first heard it through a friend’s Facebook status and read all the unimaginative “carefully” responses, I decided to look up a real answer.
Warning! Scientific Content:
Let’s get this out of the way right off. An integral part of North American porcupine courtship involves the male urinating on the female. This act is perhaps best-described by Uldis Roze in The North American Porcupine, 1989:
“Perhaps the strangest aspect of the interaction is male urine-hosing of the female. The male approaches on his hind legs and tail, grunting in a low tone. His penis springs erect. He then becomes a urine cannon, squirting high-pressure jets of urine at the female. Everything suggests the urine is fired by ejaculation, not released by normal bladder pressure…. In less than a minute, a female may be thoroughly wetted from nose to tail.”
One source states that a male porcupine projected his urine from 6 feet 7 inches away.
I have yet to find a reliable source that explains why porcupines do it this way, but allow me to offer some ideas. Roze suggests in the quotation above that the urine is “fired by ejaculation,” meaning that the urine is a sign to the female that the male is ready to get it on if she’s willing. (It’s not like he can buy her a drink or something.) The distance that the urine travels may be a sign of fitness of the male when it comes to the female judging potential mates before she is ready to breed. I might also suggest that the male urine triggers a hormonal reaction within the female, but I have no basis for this hypothesis.
Moral of the story: Don’t go near cages of mating porcupines.
So… The female actually likes this?
Here’s the thing about female porcupines. They are interested in mating for only about 8-12 hours the entire year. (Sounds like marriage.) During this short interval of time, usually in November-December, the female will accept the golden shower from the male. When the courtship is performed at other times in the year, the female will resist, such as by shaking off the urine, running away, striking the male with her front paws or tail, threatening to bite, or objecting vocally. (Again, sounds like marriage)
When a female is courted during her 8-12 hour interval, she will raise her rump to the male porcupine, exposing her quill-less underside. The male can then carefully mount her, many cases stating that the males do not grasp the females at all. Cases have been described where males will wrestle females down and go at it ventrally (I guess many would be familiar with this as the “missionary position”).
I just gotta know… What do porcupine penises look like?
Well I’m glad you asked! Interestingly, the male genitalia has small bumps or spikes on it, like those replicated in fancy prophylactics, which most likely stimulates pleasure in the female.
The penis also has two nails. That’s right, I said nails. When erect, the adjacent tissue fills with blood, and two spiky nails protrude from the underside.
**Check out this paper for an in-depth look.**
The Morning After
After about 2-5 minutes of the ol’ in and out, Roze describes a “violent orgasm.” I suppose that’s a year’s worth of semen being let loose. This act can be repeated during the half-day window the female has for mating, or until the male is worn out. The female then begins to reject the male until next year.
A Gentle Debriefing for the Pure at Heart
I hope you, my dear reader, did not become nauseous during this description of a natural act that has undoubtedly been happening all over North America for thousands of years, right under your nose, so to speak. If you’ve read this far without vomiting or running screaming from the room, you must be pretty well-off. I have no ill-will to those who find the display disgusting, but I do offer a suggestion to keep an open mind.
Porcupines seem to get along just fine with their ritual. Some people might get along with it too, but that’s a subject for a different blog. Long story short is, if you’re disgusted by it, at least you’re not a porcupine.
So before you consider proposing, “Let’s do it like porcupines,” to your significant other as an attempt to be funny or kinky, consider the magnitude of the proposition– both the urinating and waiting around for a year. Also, you are welcome for becoming well-informed in case you are on the receiving end of that proposition.