Have you ever seen anything cuter than this adorable, vampire-esque creature munching on greens and sweet potatoes? I mean, just look at its little vampire teeth! Look at its scraggly eyebrow hairs! Look at its tiny feet! This divine beast, named Rizzo, is a rock hyrax who lives at the San Antonio Zoo. The African Wildlife Foundation describes the hyrax as a "small furry mammal" that "looks like a robust, oversized guinea pig, or a rabbit with rounded ears and no tail." They continue:
Hyraxes have stumpy toes with hoof-like nails; and four toes on each front foot and three on each back foot. The longer, claw-like nails on the inside toes and the back feet are used for grooming and scratching. The bottoms of the feet have a rubbery texture to assist in climbing steep rock surfaces and trees.
Of the three hyrax species, two are known as rock (or bush) hyrax, and the third as tree hyrax. In the field, it is sometimes difficult to differentiate among them.
The rock hyrax has the widest distribution in East Africa. Its coat is yellowish — or grayish-brown — and the dorsal spot (a bare scent gland on the back covered with longer hair) is covered with black or yellow hair. Its head is more rounded than other types of hyraxes, and the nose is blunt.
The Smithsonian National Zoo also describes the rock hyrax:
Rock hyraxes, also called rock dassies or rock rabbits, are small, stub-tailed, rabbit-like animals native to Africa. Though rock hyraxes resemble rodents, their closest living relatives are actually elephants and manatees. These social mammals primarily eat vegetation.
One of four species of hyrax, rock hyraxes (also called cape hyraxes) have a short snout, cleft upper lip, short ears, and short sturdy legs. They are brownish gray with a creamy colored underside and long, black whiskers. They have a black patch of hair on their back that covers a gland; if the animal is angry or frightened this patch of hair will stand up.
The soles of their feet are rubber-like and are kept moist by a glandular secretion. There is also a hollow in the middle of the sole formed by a muscle arrangement that allows it to act like a suction cup. Both of these characteristics make rock hyraxes very agile animals that climb well and run and jump skillfully, even on rugged and steep surfaces.
The rock hyrax is now officially one of my top three favorite creatures. I hope you enjoy this adorable beast, too!