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Close-knit Family | Bush Hyrax

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Species: Bush Hyrax (Heterohyrax brucei)

Location: Nairobi National Park, Kenya

A mother hyrax and her young hurdle together on a rock.

Hyraxes are, interestingly, the closest living relatives of the elephants. This does not mean that they are necessarily closely related to them. It just means that all other mammal species alive today are less closely related to elephants that the hyraxes.

In fact, hyraxes are one of Africa's most ancient mammals. They, along with elephants and a few others, were the dominant herbivores on the continent before ungulates (antelopes, buffalo, hippo, rhino, zebra, etc) entered Africa from Eurasia and took over as the dominant herbivore group. A process that took several million years.

Most hyrax species couldn't cope with their new, more 'advanced' competitors and eventually went extinct. Elephants fared better and many species survived and even spread to other continents. Evidence suggests that the rise of humans was an important contributing factor to the fall of elephants (today only 3 elephant species remain).

Many extinct hyrax species were much bigger than today's rabbit-sized survivors. Some were as big as horses!

The few species that adapted to living in places that most ungulates can't live in (trees, cliffs and rock piles) are the only ones that survive today. 9 species currently occur: 5 rock hyraxes, 3 tree hyraxes, and the bush hyrax (pictured above).