Hyraxes are rabbit-sized mammals that look like rodents. Strangely, they are closely related to elephants. There are three kinds of hyraxes, all found in Africa: rock hyraxes, bush hyraxes, and tree hyraxes. These vegetarians eat different kinds of food and differ in social interactions. Some live in groups and others are often solitary.
Physical Characteristics of Hyraxes
Hyraxes are one to two feet long and weigh three to fourteen pounds. They have stumpy tails, brown to gray fur on their backs, and lighter pelage on their sides. Hyrax fur is short on individuals living in warm, dry regions, and thick and soft on those living in colder areas. The three types of hyraxes walk on all fours and are excellent climbers, because their feet end in rubbery pads having sweat glands. When hyraxes run, their feet sweat, and the resultant lubrication improves traction on rocks or trees. However, hyraxes also have small hooves on the first and third toes of their hind feet. All hyraxes have a gland in the middle of the back, surrounded by a ring of erectile, dark brown to yellow fur. When a hyrax becomes excited, this hair stands on end.
Life Cycles of Hyraxes
Bush and rock hyraxes are social animals which live in family groups of up to three dozen members. Each group is led by a dominant male. Its other members are adult females and young of various ages. Group members care for each other. The dominant male marks off their territory and defends it, using scent markers to warn off other hyraxes.
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