Range and Habitat
Rock hyraxes are found through much of Africa and into the Middle East. As their name implies, they are most common in scrubby, rocky habitat, with lots of crevices and holes that provide shelter that provides escape from predators or inclement weather.
Rock hyraxes look like large guinea pigs, with gray, brown, or brownish-yellow fur. They have dark noses; tiny, mouselike ears; and only a stumpy tail. They have a dark-colored spot on their back that covers a scent gland. The middle toe of a hyrax’s back feet has a claw that it uses for grooming itself. Its incisor teeth grow constantly, and are worn down by the animal’s biting and chewing.
Habits and Adaptations
Rock hyraxes spend their time in large groups called colonies. They have evolved an elaborate system of communication that helps them coordinate behavior among themselves. Unable to completely regulate their body temperature internally, hyraxes use behavior to help keep from getting too hot or too cold. In chilly weather they may stay huddled in shelters to conserve body heat. When the sun is shining they like to lie on rocks to get warm.
Eat and Be Eaten
Rock hyraxes eat mainly grass, but they also consumer other kinds of plant material, including some things other animals would find poisonous. Leopards, jackals, hyenas, lions, eagles, and pythons are among the animals that eat hyraxes.
Rock hyraxes become sexually mature at about 16 months of age. Seven to 8 months after breeding the females give birth to two to four young—an unusually long gestation for a mammal so small. The young may begin nibbling at plants when they are just a couple of days old, but they are not weaned for about three months. After male hyraxes mature, they leave their birth colony to find a new place to live, often on the periphery of the colony's territory. Rock hyraxes may live to be 9–12 years old.
People occasionally hunt rock hyraxes for food or for their hides. Overall, however, hyrax populations seem to be steady and strong.