Rock Hyrax

African Savanna

Location in Zoo

African Savanna
Size
Male
Female
12-22 inches
12-22 inches
4-12 lbs
4-12 lbs

16-17 months
16-17 months

Geographic Range

Africa

Scientific Information

Scientific Name:
Procavia capensis
Class:
Mammalia
Order:
Hyracoidea
Family:
Procaviidae
Genus:
Procavia

Lifestyle and Lifespan

Diet:
Herbivorous
Activity Time Frame:
Diurnal
Interactivity:
Sexual Dimorphism:
Male larger
Gestation:
6.5-8.5 months
Lifespan in the Wild:
8-12 years
Lifespan in Captivity:
11-14 years

Conservation

Status:
Least Concerned
Threats:
Hunting, habitat alteration

Characteristics

There are five species of hyrax: rock hyrax, yellow-spotted (or bush) rock hyrax, western tree hyrax, southern tree hyrax, and eastern tree hyrax. The rock hyrax & yellow-spotted hyrax are social, diurnal, and terrestrial, while the tree hyrax are arboreal, solitary, and nocturnal. Rock hyrax feet pads have sweat glands, and are slightly concave to help them stick on rocks.

Species Specifics

They have short snouts, short ears, and short sturdy legs. Their fur is brownish-gray with a lighter underbelly and black patch on back over their scent gland. They have four toes on their front feet and three on each back foot.

Physical Characteristics

Rock hyrax feet pads have sweat glands, and are slightly concave to help them stick on rocks.

Ecology

Habitat

Rock hyrax live in arid habitats with moderate vegetation, including deserts, savannas, and scrub forests. They are found in rocky areas with boulders, cliffs, caves, and other rock formations which provide shelter and protection.

Distribution

Rock hyrax live throughout sub-Saharan Africa with the exceptions of Madagascar and the Congo basin, and in parts of the Arabian Peninsula.

Diet

Rock hyrax eat primarily grasses during the wet season, but when grass is hard to come by they will also eat leaves and fruits

Ecological Web

Predators to the rock hyrax include leopards, hyenas, wild dogs, jackals, servals, pythons, and eagles.

Activity and Behavior

Activity Pattern

Rock hyrax are active during the day, and spend the night in protected areas like caves or burrows.

Behavior

When they wake up in the morning, they typically spend an hour sunbathing before moving on to their primary activity - cuddling! They spend much of the day doing a behavior called ‘heaping’ where many hyraxes rest in a den on top of one another.

Social Behavior

Rock hyrax have very luxurious days. When they wake up in the morning, they typically spend an hour sunbathing before moving on to their primary activity - cuddling! They spend much of the day doing a behavior called ‘heaping’ where many hyraxes rest in a den on top of one another. When they aren’t sunbathing or resting, they forage for food, which typically happens in the afternoon. Rock hyrax live in large colonies of up to 80 individuals, consisting of one or multiple territorial males and a harem of females and offspring. When young males reach 17 - 25 months of age, they will disperse up to 2 km from their family in search of new territory. A few individuals will keep a lookout for predators, especially during feeding times.

Reproductive Behavior

Rock hyrax are polygamous, with one male breeding with several females. They typically breed once a year, and the young are born 6.5-8.5 months later.

Offspring

Average range of 1-4 offspring

Conservation

Status

Listed by the IUCN as Least Concern, with their population stable.

Historical

Current Threats

Despite its IUCN listing of 'least concern', the rock hyrax's current populations trends are unknown. It has been hunted for its meat throughout its geographic range and has experienced local extinctions. There are no major threats to the long-term survival of this species.

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Fascinating Facts

While the hyrax may look like a rodent, they are actually one of the closest living relatives of the elephant! Elephants and hyrax share a common ancestor, and share similar bone structure, especially in the skull, teeth, and toes. Hyrax, along with elephants, manatees, and dugons, are classified as uranotherians.

Hyraxes are referred to four times in the bible, by the name “conies”. The books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy specify that these animals are prohibited as food, and the book of Psalm describes their use of rocky habitats.

Rock hyrax and bush hyrax sometimes associate when their ranges overlap; they can live in the same burrows, and sometimes their offspring even play together!

References