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Hyraxes: Hyracoidea

Rock Hyrax (procavia Capensis): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: Rock hyraxes are 17 to 21 inches (44 to 54 centimeters) long and weigh 4 to 12 pounds (1.8 to 5.4 kilograms). Their fur is light to dark brown.

Geographic range: Rock hyraxes are found from southwest to northeast Africa, Sinai to Lebanon, and the southeast Arabian Peninsula.

Habitat: Rock hyraxes prefer mountain cliffs and rocky outcrops or boulders. They live in the crevices of rocks.

Diet: Rock hyraxes eat quickly, with some members of the colony keeping watch for predators while the rest feed on leaves, fruit, lizard and bird eggs, and long grasses. When they eat, rock hyraxes take a mouthful of food, then quickly check out their surroundings. Because their greatest predators are birds of prey, the rock hyrax must be able to look into the sky to avoid being swooped down upon and eaten. For this reason, they have a protective film over their pupils that allows them to look directly into the sun without damaging their eyes.

Behavior and reproduction: Rock hyraxes are social creatures and live in colonies up to fifty members. As many as twenty-five hyraxes can share one den. Unlike tree hyraxes, rock hyraxes are busy during daylight hours, but since they are unable to regulate their body temperature, they will not be found foraging during very hot or very cold temperatures.

The social unit is comprised of one adult male, up to seventeen females, and their young. Although several groups may live in one area, the head male will defend his territory from other males. Predators of the rock hyrax include leopards, snakes, and birds of prey.

Rock hyraxes have more than one mate, but they give birth just once a year. Pregnancy results in one to four babies per female after a gestation period of 212 to 240 days. Once a baby reaches one to five months of age, it is weaned, taken off its mother's milk. By sixteen or seventeen months, the rock hyrax is ready to breed.

Rock hyraxes live anywhere between nine and twelve years, with females living longer than males.

Rock hyraxes and people: Some African tribes hunt the rock hyrax for food, and it is mentioned numerous times in the Bible as "conie," which means "rabbit."

Conservation status: Rock hyraxes are not threatened. ∎



Mostue, Trude. Wild About Animals. London: Madcap, 1999.

Ricciuti, Edward R., Jenny Tesar, and Bruce Glassman, eds. What on Earth is a Hyrax? Detroit: Gale Group, 1996.

Birds are important predators of rock hyraxes. Rock hyraxes have a protective film over their pupils that allows them to look directly into the sun without damaging their eyes, so they can keep a look out for birds in the sky. (Ann & Steve Toon Wildlife Photography. Reproduced by permission.)


Slattery, Derek M. "Kenya—the Rock and Tree Hyrax or Dassie." PSA Journal (September 2003): 29–31.

Web sites:

"Hyrax." Out to Africa. http://www.outtoafrica.nl/animals/enghyrax.html?zenden=2&subsoort_id=4&bestemming_id=1 (accessed on July 9, 2004).

"Hyrax." Science Daily. http://www.sciencedaily.com/encyclopedia/hyrax (accessed on July 9, 2004).

"The Hyrax: More Elephant than Rodent." BBC Science & Nature: Animals. http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/animals/features/155index.shtml (accessed on July 9, 2004).

"Rock Hyrax." Nature Niche. http://natureniche.tripod.com/hyrax.html (accessed on July 9, 2004).

"Rock Hyrax." Wildlife Safari Info. http://www.wildlifesafari.info/hyrax_rock.html (accessed on July 9, 2004).

World Wildlife Fund. http://www.panda.org/ (accessed on July 9, 2004).

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsHyraxes: Hyracoidea - Physical Characteristics, Habitat, Behavior And Reproduction, Southern Tree Hyrax (dendrohyrax Arboreus): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, DIET, HYRAXES AND PEOPLE, CONSERVATION STATUS