Rock Dassie - Procavia capensis

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Rock Dassie - Procavia capensis | Tree Hyrax - Dendohyrax arboreus | Yellow-spot Hyrax - Heterohyrax brucei


Afrikaans Klipdassie
Shona,Venda Mbila  Zulu  Shangaan Mbili
Tswana Pela

F 5 cm
H 7 cm


1 cm
Slightly flattened

Unusual features/differences from similar animals

The spot on the back is usually black whereas the dorsal spot is cream to yellow-red in Yellow-spotted hyrax and white/off-white in the Tree hyrax. The Yellow-spotted hyrax sometimes has no nipples on the chest while the number of nipples can vary in the Tree hyrax.

Visible Male/Female Differences

Males are larger than females and the tips of their incisor teeth show below the upper lip. 

Habitat and Distribution

A wide range of habitats but not forests. The only definite requirement  is rocks for shelter. Human-made structures are also acceptable.


Vegetation including grass shrubs and trees. Prefers easily digestible vegetation but also eats plants that are poisonous to domestic stock.  Independent of water when green vegetation is available.


Breeding is triggered by the length of the day. Two young per litter is produced in females at 2 years and 4-6 per litter at 5 years and older. Young are born fully furred and active, takes solid food at a few days old and are weaned by 1-5 months. Females are sexually mature at 16-17 months and males at 28-29 months and lifespan rarely over 8 years in the wild. They are taken by eagles, caracals and leopards.

Behavior and Habits

Feeds in the morning and afternoon and rests in shelter to avoid the midday heat. They spend only 5% of the time feeding and can saves metabolic energy by allowing body temperature to fall by as much as 3C. Basks in the sun with the coat fluffed up to absorb heat. Rock dassies are very agile and the soft, moist pads of their feet providing a secure grip even on smooth rock. They also climb trees to reach the foliage. 

Colonies group size depends on the availability of shelter but normally consists of 3-17 females and their young. Only the territorial males have access to breeding females. Males are aggressive and they can inflict serious wounds with their sharp teeth. Sometimes fights over colonies which occur at the end  of mating season when the breeding males are weaker can result in fatalities. Males without territories are solitary. Rock hyraxes and Yellow-spotted hyrax young form mixed nursery groups which adults of either species guard. Dung accumulates in piles at latrine sites and urine produces conspicuous white streaks on rocks which sometimes accumulates into substantial deposits which are used in folk remedies. The hair on the dorsal patch can during aggression and courtship which releases the odor of the gland.


Alarm calls are a warning squeak or a shrill bark which elicits flight. A monotonous shrill bark is made by territorial males. They grunt, growl, spit and gnash their teeth when aggressive.

Field sign

Dung is roughly spherical, rough-surfaced, dark droppings about 1,5cm in diameter. Deposited in middens. White streaks on rocks from dried urine.


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