Hyraxes (Hyracoidea order) can trace their history back some 37 million years, and in prehistoric times were dominant animals in Africa. The largest of these ancient animals were nearly the size of horses, but over time began to be pushed out of their ecological niche by more advanced animals such as antelope.
Today there are four living species of hyrax, the southern tree hyrax, western tree hyrax, rock hyrax, and yellow-spotted rock hyrax; all differ slightly in color and appearance. Most extant hyraxes are between 1-2 feet long, weigh 5-11lbs and can be found in various regions of Africa.
Hyraxes are herbivores that feed on a variety of grasses, shrubs, fruits, and berries. Unlike more highly-evolved mammals, hyraxes have poor thermoregulation abilities, meaning they are unable to completely regulate their body temperatures. Like reptiles, hyraxes must bask in the sun upon emerging in the morning to warm up before becoming active.
Hyraxes live in herds of up to 80 individuals and must defend themselves against a large variety of African predators such as leopards, eagles, and cobras. Despite these dangers, hyraxes are not considered endangered, and are numerous enough to be considered pests in some areas due to their noisy nature.
The hyrax is considered to be one the elephant’s closest living relatives.
San Diego Zoo