Yellow-spot Hyrax - Heterohyrax brucei

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


Afrikaans Geelkoldassie
Shona Mbira Ndebele Imbila

F 5 cm
H 7 cm


1 cm
Slightly flattened

Unusual features/differences from similar animals

The spot on the back is black in Rock hyrax and is cream in the Tree hyrax.

Visible Male/Female Differences

Females have one pair of nipples on the chest and two pairs on the belly, or just the two pairs on the belly whereas the Rock hyrax always has one pair on the chest and two on the belly. 

Habitat and Distribution

Rocky outcrops.


A wide range of vegetation.


Litters of two are born in March-April. Breeds at the same time as Rock hyraxes in the same area to prevent predators from concentrating on them. Young are born fully furred and mobile with eyes open. Taken by eagles,  caracals and leopards.

Behavior and Habits

Feeds in the morning and afternoon. Rests in shelter to avoid the midday heat. Spends only 5% of the time feeding, interacting and moving around as a way of saving energy and avoiding predators. Saves metabolic energy by allowing body temperature to fall by as much as 3C and then basks in the sun with the coat fluffed up to expose the dark under fur to absorb heat. Rock dassies are exceptionally agile, the soft, moist pads of their feet providing a secure grip even on smooth rock. They also climb trees to reach the foliage. 

Often lives in mixed colonies with rock dassies, but when conditions are hard the Rock hyrax dominates. Colonies consist of 3-1 7 females and their young. Group size depends on the availability of shelter. Males without territories are solitary. Territorial males control the colony and only they have access to breeding females. Males are aggressive and their sharp incisor teeth can inflict serious wounds on each other and on females and fights over colonies can result in fatalities. Territorial takeovers are attempted at the end of the mating season when the breeding males are in poor physical condition. Juveniles form nursery groups. Sub adult males leave their groups at 15 months.

Rock hyraxes and Yellow-spotted hyrax young form mixed nursery groups for which adults of either species act as guards. Dung accumulates in piles at latrine sites. They urinate in specific spots and dried urine produces conspicuous white streaks on rocks. Urine sometimes accumulates into substantial amber deposits which at one time were used in folk remedies.  The hair on the dorsal patch is raised to release the odor of the gland's secretion.


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.

Dung and Field sign

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

Safari Media Africa/C.A. Mitchell 2000-2012

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