Rock Hyrax

© Roger de la Harpe

Name

Rock Hyrax – otherwise known as the Rock Dassie or Cape hyrax (Procavia capensis)

Appearance

The rock hyrax is the closest living relative to the elephant despite its difference in size. The foot and teeth structures are similar to that of the elephant.

Diet

The rock hyrax is herbivorous and feeds on a variety of plant matter. The rock hyrax prefers grass during the rainy season in South Africa. During times of drought, the rock hyrax will consume any type of plant matter, including toxic plants, aromatic plants, mosses and liverworts.

Breeding

Female dassies can start breeding before one years old. The gestation period for the rock hyrax is seven months, where between 2-3 young are born during the early summer season in South Africa. There is one dominant male per harem which comprises of up to 17 females. Males are solitary in nature but live close by to the harems.

Behaviour

The rock hyrax can be seen basking in the sun in early mornings and late afternoons upon rocks and cliffs around South Africa. The rock hyrax serve as main food sources for eagles, caracals and leopards.

Where they are found

As stated by its name, the rock hyrax’s preferred habitat is among rocky areas found throughout South Africa. They are also excellent climbers and can be seen in treetops growing among rocky outcrops.

Vital Statistics

Weight (Female) - 2,5 - 4,2 kg
Weight (Male) - 3,2 - 4,7 kg
Length (Female) - 55 cm
Length (Male) - 55 cm
Gestation Period - 8 months
No of Young - 1 - 6
Sexual Maturity - 17 months
Birth Weight - 165 - 230 g
Order - Hyracoidea
Family - Procaviidae
Breeding - 1 - 6 young are born in September/October and March - April after a gestation period of ± 7 months.

Spoor Description

The rock hyrax has 4 toes on the front feet and 3 toes on the hind-feet. The toes all have nails, except the inner toe of the hind-foot, which has a curved grooming claw. The soles of the feet are naked, the skin thick and padded with glandular tissue which keeps the surface permanently moist to increase traction. This enables it to easily walk along steep and smooth rock faces or to climb trees in habitats found in South Africa.