They may look like large rodents, rock hyraxes are not a part of Rodentia at all! They are part of the order Hyracoidea – meaning elephants are one of their closest relatives! Like elephants, rock hyraxes have two large tusk-like incisors and strong molars for mashing vegetation. They also have flat, hoof-like nails rather than the hooked claws common on other mammals. While about the size of an American football, the ancestors of hyraxes were as large as a small horse.

Living up to the name, rock hyraxes can be found throughout Africa hanging out in rocky formations that provide shelter and protection. Their feet have moist, rubbery pads that act like suction cups, making it easy to climb smooth surfaces without slipping. Living in colonies of 10-80 individuals, each day begins with several hours of sunbathing before heading out to feed. Due to their poor circulation, they do not like cool or rainy weather and will not leave their shelter if it is not warm enough. 

Hyraxes have a three-chambered stomach with bacteria to help digest the plants they eat. Hyrax pups will eat poop from adults to get those bacteria! During the wet season, rock hyraxes eat mostly grass, but when the grass dries, they switch to fruits and leaves. They feed with their backs to each other, heads facing outward to watch for predators. Rock hyraxes have exceptional vision and can spot a predator over 1,000 yards (900 meters) away!


rock hyrax