Despite being not much bigger than a guinea pig the rock hyrax is the closest living relative of the elephant with several common features.

Not only do they have acute hearing and hooves rather than claws on their toes, they have two large continually growing incisors, which correspond to an elephant’s tusks.

And whereas small mammals normally have a short pregnancy period, for the rock hyrax it lasts for around seven and a half months (245 days) - another sign of their relation to their much larger ancestors.

It's more Jumbo than Tiddles. And like elephants, these are one of the coolest creatures around, who love nothing better than to spend a couple of hours basking in the sun. That's before summoning up the energy for a busy afternoon of hyper activity.

They're nifty rock climbers, helped by the rubbery, damp soles of their feet which give them a good grip when scrambling around stony outcrops and over crevices. You'll see we've given ours lots of rocks to climb over in their habitat.

Wild ones live in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, plus there is a large number in Israel where they are protected by law.

For such small animals they can make a big noise. They start with fairly sharp, intermittent yips, then gradually get louder, building up to great guttural grunting noises when they've a mind to practice defending their territory.

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Interesting facts

IUCN Status Least concern
Where they live widespread in sub-Saharan Africa; north east Africa and the Arabian treninsula.
Habitat wide range of habitats including deserts, rainforests, rocky outcrops.
Size 20-30cm shoulder height; 30-58cm length
Weight 2 - 5kg
Threats No major threats, though there are reports of hunting in some areas.
Scientific name  Procavia capensis