Almost the entire body is covered with bristles which are either dark brown or black and rather coarse. This mammal is recognizable by the quills that run along the head, nape, and back that can be raised into a crest. Hence the name crested porcupine. There are also some sturdier quills which are about 35 cm (14 in) in length and run along the sides and back half of the body. These sturdier quills are used, for the most part, for defence and are usually marked with light and dark bands which alternate; these are not firmly attached. This porcupine has a shorter tail which has rattle quills at the end. The rattle quills broaden at the terminal end and the broad portion is hollow with thin walls. When these quills are vibrated they produce a hiss-like rattle.
The crested porcupine is for the most part herbivorous, eating roots, bulbs, crops. But occasionally they do consume insects, small vertebrates and carrion.