Rock Hyrax or Cape Hyrax

(Procavia capensis)


Rock Hyrax or Cape  Hyrax IUCN LEAST CONCERN (LC)


Facts about this animal

The rock hyrax is a small marmot-like mammal with a head-body length of 45-60 cm and a body-weight of 2.5-4.6 kgs. The upper incisors are triangular in cross section and evergrowing, like the rodents.

The coat is brownish grey on the back and cream underneath, dense with thick underfur, but on the back there is a hairless area with a dorsal gland which produces the characteristic odor of the species. The gland is surrounded by longer, erectile hairs which are yellow, orange, brown, or black.

The"dassies" (name in South Africa) are predominantly diurnal, gregarious animals, living in small to large colonies, which are usually betrayed by urine stains on the rocks, and piles of droppings in select places. The crystallised urine, 'Hyracidium' is sold as folk medicine in southern Africa.

The dassies are grazing and browsing herbivores eating a wide range of plants. Feeding usually takes place on the ground but they will climb on trees to feed on leaves, bark, flowers, pods and fruit.

The females give birth to 1-4, usually 2-3 precocious young: fully haired, with eyes open, and able to move about soon after birth. Birth weight varies according to the size of the litter between 150 and 300 g. The life span in the wild is about 4-5 years.

Did you know?
That hyraxes are believed to be the elephants' nearest living relatives? This assumption is based on anatomic similarities in teeth, leg and foot bones, testes (that do not descend into a scrotum) and other more obscure details.


Name (Scientific) Procavia capensis
Name (English) Rock Hyrax or Cape Hyrax
Name (French) Daman du Cap ou Daman des rochers
Name (German) Kap-Klippschliefer
Name (Spanish) Damán de El Cabo
Local names Afrikaans: Klipdas, Dassie
ciShona, xiTsonga, ciVenda: Mbila
kiSwahili: Pimbi
isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu: Imbila
sePedi: Pela, thobela, thewbela
seSotho, seTswana: Pela
seTswana: Pela
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Hans Hillewaert



Range Africa: Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Cameroon, Chad, Congo DR, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Libya, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Near East and Middle East: Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey (Asia minor), Yemen,
Habitat They live in crevices and cavities in rock outcroppings in scrubland or open grassland
Wild population Unknown, but it is a common species in Africa (Red List IUCN 2011)
Zoo population 305 reported to ISIS

In the Zoo

Rock Hyrax or Cape  Hyrax


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 75 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


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Why do zoos keep this animal

The rock hyrax is not a threatened species. Zoos keep the "dassies" predominantly for educational reasons because, although they may appear rodent-like, their evolutionary relationships in fact lie with elephants and manatees.

As active, social, nice little creatures the "dassies" appeal to the public and are a good ambassador species for two biodiversity hotspots, the Cape Floral Kingdom and the Succulent Karoo, as well as for other southern African ecosystems.