The rock hyrax is a familiar sight to behold in South Africa, with its charming personality and quick-biting nature. Commonly referred to as rock badgers, and more affectionately as dassies. These cute, furry creatures dominate cliff faces and rocks alike, as well as bushland and trees. Similar to a guinea pig, they lack tails, but they feet are highly unique in its form. We talk interesting and surprising facts about the rock hyrax below.
The Lifestyle & Habits of the Rock Hyrax
These creatures are sun worshippers by default. They spend much of them time sun-bathing and resting, partly due to their poorly developed thermoregulation. Hence, you’ll find them hiding in their burrows on colder days and only coming out once the sun is well-risen in the sky.
As extremely sociable animals, they commune in groups of up to 26 members, with their colonies generally consisting of one breeding male and numerous females, signalling polygyny. Rock hyraxes are grazers by nature, foraging the ground for their food and sometimes wandering into the trees to feed on fresh leaves.
Diet of the Rock Hyrax
Rock hyraxes are grazers by nature, foraging the ground for their food and sometimes wandering into the trees to feed on fresh leaves. As omnivores, they feed on grasses, fruit, herbs and leaves, with insects, small lizard and the eggs of bird occasionally forming part of their meal plan. They tend to feed in groups, with the breeding male or a female standing guard from above—generally on a tree branch or a high rock. If a predator is detected, they will alert the group with a high-pitched barking call.
As mentioned above, these animals breed in a polygynous fashion. Breeding males tend to mate with between 3-7 females. The pups of the rock hyrax develop rapidly, with the young being able to eat food at around 3-4 days of age. Solid foods are introduced within the first 2 weeks of their life and weaning occurring at the ripe age of 3 months old. While they reach sexual maturity at 16 months, young rock hyraxes only attain their adult size after 3 years.
More Fun Facts on the Rock Hyrax:
- Rock hyraxes have special physical adaptations to their feet for the purpose of climbing, with padding and suction-like abilities for climbing.
- They have three-chambered stomachs filled with symbiotic bacteria, which breaks down the plants they eat. Their young are born without these bacteria. Thus, baby rock hyraxes eat the excrement of adult hyraxes in order to digest plant matter.
- Rock hyraxes are related to elephants! Evidence supporting the elephant as a common ancestor over time arise from unusual shared characteristics, like lacking a scrotum and their testicles being nestled within their abdominal cavity. Coupled with this is the fact that rock hyraxes have tusks developed from the incisor teeth, just like elephant tusks. Finally, hyraxes have flat, hoof-like nails on the edge of their toes.
The Kruger National Park has rock hyraxes lounging around if you’d like to see them in the flesh. Pair your visit with a luxurious stay at our lodge for that much-needed breakaway! Get in touch to book your reservation with us.