Procaviidae: Hyrax Family

Small herbivores found in Africa and the Middle East, the hyraxes, conies or dassies generally look like rabbits with short, rounded ears. There are about 6 species, and the family is the only one in its order. Some hyraxes are agile climbers in trees, while others inhabit rocky koppies, or small hills.

Tree Hyrax

Range: Africa: Kenya to South Africa: Cape Province.

Habitat: Forest.

Size: Body: 15 3/4 - 23 1/2 in (40 - 60 cm); Tail: absent.

The tree hyrax is an excellent climber and lives in a tree hole or rock crevice where it rests during the day. It emerges in the afternoon or evening to feed in the trees and on the ground on leaves, grass, ferns, fruit and other plant material. Insects, lizards and birds’ eggs are also eaten on occasion.

Tree hyraxes normally live in pairs and are extremely noisy animals, uttering a wide range of loud screams, squeals and grunts. A litter of 1 or 2 young is born after a gestation period of about 8 months.

Small-toothed Rock Hyrax

Range: Africa: Egypt to South Africa: Transvaal; Botswana and Angola.

Habitat: Open country, plains to mountains, forest, savanna.

Size: Body: 15 3/4 - 22 1/2 in (40 - 57 cm); Tail: absent.

Despite its name, this hyrax lives among trees as well as rocks. Depending on its habitat, it finds shelter in crevices or holes. Rock hyraxes are sociable animals and they form colonies of up to 30 animals, each colony generally consists of several old males, many breeding females and their young. The rock hyraxes feed during the day, mainly on leaves of trees, but also on small plants and grass.

The female gives birth to 1 or 2 young, rarely 3, after a gestation period of between 7 1/2 and 8 months.

Large-toothed Rock Hyrax

Range: Arabian Peninsula; Africa: N.E. Senegal to Somalia and N. Tanzania, S. Malawi, S. Angola to South Africa: Cape Province.

Habitat: Rocky hillsides, rock piles.

Size: Body: 17 - 18 1/2 in (43 - 47 cm); Tail: absent.

This hyrax lives among rocky outcrops and it is an agile climber. It feeds mostly on the ground on leaves, grass, small plants and berries, but readily climbs to feed on fruits, such as figs. In winter bark is eaten. The hyraxes spend much of the rest of the day lying in the sun or shade in order to maintain their body temperature, and at night they huddle together in order to minimize loss of body heat. These hyraxes are sociable and live in colonies of 50 or more individuals.

Males are aggressive at mating time and reassert their dominance over rivals and younger males. The female gives birth to 1 to 6 young, usually 2 or 3, after a gestation period of between 7 and 8 months.

Rock Hyrax

Although it looks like a member of the rodent family, the Rock hyrax is closely related to elephants, being descended from larger ancestors.

These mammals live in groups of up to seven related females. They will huddle together ter keep warm, because they are not able to regulate their body temperature as effectively as most mammals. Rock hyraxes will also bask in the sun as a way of raising their body temperature. Males are territorial and, in common with other members of the family, have testes that are retained inside the body.

Distribution: In rocky areas, ranging across much of Africa, particularly in the mountainous parts of the Sahara and Namib deserts, extending eastwards to the Arabian Peninsula.

Weight: 1.8 - 5.4kg (4 - 12 lb).

Length: 44 - 54cm (17 - 21 in).

Maturity: After 16 months.

Gestation Period: 210 - 235 days.

Breeding: 1 - 4; births of the females in a group are synchronized, occurring within a period of 3 weeks; weaning occurs after 70 days.

Diet: Herbivorous, grazing mainly on grass.

Lifespan: Up to 12 years; females live longer than males.