Most Unique Animal: Hyrax

A hyrax at the Serengeti Visitors Centre in Tanzania.

Bjørn Christian Tørrissen

A hyrax at the Serengeti Visitor’s Centre in Tanzania.

The hyrax or “dassie” is arguably one of the most interesting animals in the world. They have many unique traits that are unlike any other animal. But what is a hyrax? Hyraxes are small, herbivorous mammals mainly found in Africa. They are furry, round animals with short tails. They typically are between 30 and 70 centimeters (12 and 28 inches) long, and weigh somewhere between 2 and 5 kilograms, (4 and 11 pounds). They look similar to pikas, small mountain-dwelling mammals found in Asia and North America. They also look similar to marmots, large ground squirrels living in Asia, Europe, and North America. Surprisingly, their closest relatives are elephants and sea cows/manatees.

In the WIRED article, “The Creature Feature: 10 Fun Facts About the Rock Hyrax,” it says the modern rock hyrax belongs to the family Hyrax, the only living family in the order Hyrax. During the Eocene, Hyrax of all sizes filled the plains of Africa, from mouse-sized seeds to small horse-sized seeds. Competition with Miocene cattle has replaced these ancient rock hyrax. Some have evolved into the hyrax we know today, while others appear to have given birth to a family of elephants and sirens (manatees and dugongs.)

This is just the beginning of the unique characteristics of the Hyrax. According to AZ Animals’s nine most interesting animals list, “[They] even grows tusks that keep growing throughout [their] lives, and [their] cheek teeth are like those of a rhinoceros.” Some other similarities they have to other animals are the inability to vomit like horses and having multi-chambered stomachs like cows. Hyrax are also known to sun-bathe to get warm like snakes. The WIRED article states that the hyrax spends about 95% of its time resting, which can involve heaping or basking in the sun. This is due to hyrax’s poorly developed thermoregulation, which is the process that allows your body to maintain its core internal temperature.

These things and more are what make the hyrax such an interesting and unique animal.


Bates, Mary. “The Creature Feature: 10 Fun Facts about the Rock Hyrax (or, Are You Ready to Rock Hyrax?).” Wired, Conde Nast, 2 Jan. 2014,
“Believe It or Not, the Hyrax Is the Elephant’s Closest Living Relative.” African Wildlife Foundation, African Wildlife Foundation,
“Hyrax.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 8 Mar. 2022,
“Rock Hyrax.” San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Animals and Plants,
Staff, Written by AZ Animals. “The 9 Most Interesting Animals in the World.” AZ Animals, AZ Animals, 7 Dec. 2021,