Rock Hyrax

There is only one living species of elephant in Africa, and it is the largest land animal in the world. Although there is some disagreement among scientists, the closest relatives of the elephants are thought to be sea cows, such as manatees and dugongs, and byraxes. Neither of these groups hear much physical resemblance to elephants, but similarities in their DNA codes reveal a shared ancestry.

Close relatives of the elephant, these small rodent-like animals live in groups in rocky areas, where there are plenty of nooks and crannies in which to hide. Rock hyraxes are surprisingly agile, and can run up even the steepest, smooth rock surfaces with ease, gripping the rocks with the rubber-like soles of their feet. Rock hyraxes have many enemies, which include leopards, eagles and pythons, so they have to be quick and watchful. In fact, the dominant male of a family group, which typically consists of several females and young, and sometimes a subordinate male as well, usually stands guard while the rest of the group feeds or basks in the sun. If the sentry animal spots danger, he will warn the rest of the group with an alarm call.

Rock hyraxes will eat almost any type of vegetation, even plant species poisonous to other mammals.

Rock hyraxes don’t like cold or wet weather, and will stay in their burrows if it is raining. When it is cold, groups of up to 25 animals will huddle together in a shelter to keep warm. On warm days, they come out to feed or bask in the sun. Hyraxes only come out at night if the weather is warm and there is plenty of moonlight, otherwise they stay in their burrows until daytime.

Rock hyraxes have a very distinctive brown scent gland on their backs.

Distribution: Most of Africa, excluding the north-western regions.

Habitat: Rocky scrubland.

Food: Grass, leaves and shrubs.

Size: 30 - 58 cm (12 - 23 in); 4 kg (8.75 lb).

Maturity: 16 - 17 months.

Breeding: Litter of 1 - 6 young.

Life span: 11 years.

Status: Common.

Facial features

The rounded ears are set low and the nose is black. The eyes are dark, surrounded by pale fur.

Long hairs

Distributed randomly over the body, these long hairs resemble whiskers and have a similar sensory function.


The incisors are enlarged, being developed into small tusks, projected over the lower lips.

Hind feet

These are equipped with a sharp inner claw.


Living in rocky areas means that rock hyraxes must climb well. They are vulnerable to birds of prey from overhead.