ROCK HYRAX - Procavia capensis
SIZE: Length 55 cm, mass (m) 3,75 kg, (f) 3,55 kg.
COLOUR: Various shades of brown, from dark brown to
yellow-grey. Neck and flanks lighter than back. Throat
and belly lighter brown, but not whitish. A patch
of long black hair covers dorsal gland in the centre
of the back.
GESTATION PERIOD: 7. 5 months
POTENTIAL LONGEVITY: 7 years
MOST LIKE: Tree Hyrax, but with shorter hair and black,
not white, hair over the dorsal gland.
HABITAT: Rocky outcrops such as koppies, krantzes
and mountain slopes.
Hyrax inhabit rocky outcrops, and prefer to live in rock
fissures and among boulders, particularly those associated
with bushes and trees of species which provide browse, which
forms the majority of their diet. It is essential that these
rocky outcrops contain crannies and crevices in which the
dassies can shelter. It has thickly padded feet which are
kept moist by a glandular secretion: this helps the hyrax'
mobility on the steep and smooth rock surfaces upon which
they live. These animals are gregarious, and congregate
in colonies of up to 50. They are territorial; one male
associates with up to 17 adult females and juveniles, and
some young males. They are diurnal, and enjoy basking in
the sun, spending much of their time conserving their energy.
In the cold parts of the day and at night, they go into
a tightly packed huddle together in their dark shelters
in order to minimize loss of body heat. They are herbivorous,
and eat a variety of grasses, forbs and shrubs, including
some that are poisonous to other animals.
In a hyrax colony it is the female that
is the sentry: her high pitched cry sends the colony scurrying
to the shelter of rocky crevices. Hyrax are extensively preyed
upon by lions, jackals and eagles: the latter swoop down out
of the morning sun to catch them. To counter this, the rock
dassies' eye has a thin moveable membrane which shields the
pupil and allows vision directly into the sun. The dassie
is an aggressive little animal with sharp incisors. The hair
of the dorsal gland is capable of rising when the animal is
stressed, much the same way as a dog's hackles. Two to three
young are born: within a day they are capable of agile movement
over the rocky terrain.
The Rock Hyrax gets its name from the Dutch
for small badger: dasje, which is a more accurate description
than the English 'rock rabbit', as the dassie has very tiny
ears and no tail. It is also referred to as the 'Dassie'.
Dassies are more closely related to the dugongs and elephants
than to either badgers or rabbits.
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