AppearanceThe rock hyrax is squat and heavily built, adults reaching a length of 50 cm and weighing around 4 kg , with a slight sexual dimorphism, males being approximately 10% heavier than females. Their fur is thick and grey-brown, although this varies strongly between different environments: from dark brown in wetter habitats, to light gray in desert living individuals. Hyrax size is correlated to precipitation, probably because of the effect on preferred hyrax forage.
Prominent in and apparently unique to hyraxes is the dorsal gland, which excretes an odour used for social communication and territorial marking. The gland is most clearly visible in dominant males.
The head of the rock hyrax is pointed, having a short neck with rounded ears. They have long black whiskers on their muzzles. The rock hyrax has a prominent pair of long, pointed tusk-like upper incisors which are reminiscent of the elephant, to which the hyrax is distantly related. The forefeet are plantigrade, and the hindfeet semi-digitigrade. The soles of the feet have large, soft pads that are kept moist with sweat-like secretions. In males, the testes are permanently abdominal, another anatomical feature that hyraxes share with their relatives elephants and sirenians.
Thermoregulation in the rock hyrax has been subject to much research, as their body temperature varies with a diurnal rhythm. However, animals kept in constant environmental conditions also display such variation and this internal mechanism may be related to water balance regulation.
NamingThey are known as dassies in South Africa, and sometimes rock rabbits. The Swahili names for them are pimbi, pelele and wibari, though the latter two names are nowadays reserved for the tree hyraxes. The Dutch name is klipdas.
This species has many subspecies, many of which are also known as rock or Cape hyrax, although the former usually refers to African varieties. In Arabic, the rock hyrax is called الوبر or طبسون . In Hebrew, the rock hyrax is called שפן סלע , meaning ''rock "shafan"'', where the meaning of ''shafan'' is obscure, but is colloquially used as a synonym for rabbit in modern Hebrew.
Gerald Durrell wrote that in Bafut, in Cameroon, the locals call the rock hyrax the n'eer.
DistributionThe rock hyrax occurs across sub-Saharan Africa, with the exception of the Congo basin and Madagascar. A larger, longer-haired subspecies is abundant in the glacial moraines in the alpine zone of Mount Kenya. The distribution continues into northern Algeria, Libya and Egypt, and the Middle East, with populations in Israel, Jordan, Syria, the Arabian peninsula and eastern Turkey.
BehaviorHyraxes live in colonies of up to 80 individuals. These colonies are subdivided into smaller groups consisting of a few families. These consist of 3 to 15 related adult females, a dominant male, and several young. The dominant male defends and watches over the group. The male also marks its territory.Rock hyrax. . Retrieved April 17, 2009, from EBSCO Animals database. MAIN
In Africa, hyraxes are preyed on by leopards, Egyptian cobras, puff adders, caracals, wild dogs, and eagles. Verreaux's Eagle in particular is a specialist hunter of hyrax. In Israel, the rock hyrax is reportedly rarely preyed upon by terrestrial predators, as their system of sentries and their reliable refuges provide considerable protection. Hyrax remains are almost absent from the droppings of wolves in the Judean Desert.Rock hyraxes are very noisy and sociable. In a study of their social networks, it was found that hyraxes that live in more "egalitarian" groups, in which social associations are spread more evenly among group members, survive longer. In addition, hyraxes are the first non-human species in which structural balance was described, i.e. they follow the "the friend of my friend is my friend" rule, and avoid unbalanced social configurations.
Adults make use of at least 21 different vocal signals. The most familiar signal is a high trill, given in response to perceived danger. Rock hyrax calls can provide important biological information such as size, age, social status, body weight, condition, and hormonal state of the caller, as determined by measuring their call length, patterns, complexity, and frequency. More recently, researchers have found rich syntactic structure and geographical variations in the calls of rock hyraxes, a first in the vocalization of mammalian taxa other than primates, cetaceans, and bats.
The rock hyrax also makes a loud grunting sound while moving its jaws as if chewing, and this behaviour may be a sign of aggression. Some authors have proposed that observation of this behavior by ancient Israelites gave rise to the misconception given in Leviticus 11:4-8 that the hyrax chews the cud; in fact, hyraxes are not ruminants.
The rock hyrax spends approximately 95% of its time resting. During this time, they can often be seen basking in the sun, which is thought to be an element of their complex thermoregulation.
HabitatHyraxes live in colonies of up to 80 individuals. These colonies are subdivided into smaller groups consisting of a few families. These consist of 3 to 15 related adult females, a dominant male, and several young. The dominant male defends and watches over the group. The male also marks its territory.Rock hyrax. . Retrieved April 17, 2009, from EBSCO Animals database. MAIN
In Africa, hyraxes are preyed on by leopards, Egyptian cobras, puff adders, caracals, wild dogs, and eagles. Verreaux's Eagle in particular is a specialist hunter of hyrax. In Israel, the rock hyrax is reportedly rarely preyed upon by terrestrial predators, as their system of sentries and their reliable refuges provide considerable protection. Hyrax remains are almost absent from the droppings of wolves in the Judean Desert.
ReproductionRock hyraxes give birth to two or three young after a gestation period of 6–7 months . The young are well developed at birth with fully opened eyes and complete pelage. Young can ingest solid food after two weeks and are weaned at ten weeks. After 16 months, the rock hyraxes become sexually mature, they reach adult size at three years, and they typically live about ten years. During seasonal changes, the weight of the male reproductive organs changes due to sexual activity. A study showed that between May and January, the males were inactive sexually. From February onward, there was a dramatic increase to the weight of these organs, and the males are able to copulate.
FoodHyraxes feed on a wide variety of different plants, including both grasses and broad-leafed plants. They also have been reported to eat insects and grubs. The rock hyraxes forage for food up to about 50 metres from their refuge, usually feeding as a group and with one or more acting as sentries from a prominent lookout position. On the approach of danger, the sentries give an alarm call, and the animals quickly retreat to their refuge. They are able to go for many days without water due to the moisture they obtain through their food. Despite their seemingly clumsy build, they are able to climb trees , and will readily enter residential gardens to feed on the leaves of citrus and other trees.
CulturalRock hyraxes are classified as non-kosher in the Old Testament/Jewish Torah. Nonetheless, they are also included in Proverbs 30:26 as one of a number of remarkable animals for being small but exceedingly wise, in this case because "the rock badgers are a people not mighty, yet they make their homes in the cliffs".
In Joy Adamson's books and the associated movie ''Born Free'', a rock hyrax that she called Pati-Pati was her companion for six years before Elsa and her siblings came along and took the role of nanny and watched over them with great care.
Some text fragments are auto parsed from Wikipedia.