Information On The Hyrax


planet hyrax

It is said that the hyrax is the distant cousin of the elephant. Scientists believe that both had a common ancestor some 55 million years ago. If you look at their feet it seems they are related. On their toes, the elephant and the hyrax both have toenails that are almost hooves. Some African tribes call the hyraxes "little brothers of elephants."

The hyrax looks like a guinea pig. But the hyrax is not a rodent. It is so different from all other animals, that scientists have placed it in an order, or group, all by itself, hyracoids.

Short feeding times, about an hour a day, plus the ability to derive most of their required moisture from their food, enables the hyrax to stay in or near shelter. This is important because they cannot regulate their own body temperature well, so prolonged exposure to heat or cold could be fatal.


There are three kinds of hyraxes. The rabbit size rock hyrax is the largest. The tree hyrax and the bush hyrax are smaller.

Length of Head and Body: 16-22 inches. Weight: 4-11 pounds.

Habitat and Range: rocky areas and forests in parts of Africa and the Middle East.

The hyraxes eat grasses, buds, leaves stems, bark, and fruit. Their life span in captivity can be as long as 12 years.

Cape hyraxes produce large, communal piles of dung and urine that eventually congeal into a sticky mass. This substance (hyraceum) has been used by humans as a medicine for treating epilepsy, convulsions, and "women's disorders."

The hyrax have 21 different adult vocalizations for communicating information effectively.

Hyrax's enemies are leopards, eagles, foxes, weasels and moongooses. To protect itself the group will post a scout, if an enemy is coming they warn the others with a sharp bark.

The soles of their feet are moist and rubberlike, which gives the animals traction on smooth surfaces and steep slopes.


Colonies of tree and rock hyraxes live side by side. Some believe that the animals can live together because they don't usually eat the same foods. Rock hyraxes eat mostly grasses, while the bush hyraxes climb trees and shrubs to feed on the leaves. Their gut is complex, with three separate areas of microbial digestion. They do not ruminate.

Hyraxes usually have litters of one to four young after a gestation period of seven and a half months. The young can run and jump soon after birth. They nurse for up to six months. Rock and bush hyraxes sometimes eat grasses and leaves when they are only two days old. Hyraxes often cooperate in caring for the young. While one adult tends the offspring the other adults feed.



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