The Closest Relative To An Elephant Is Basically A Rodent

“I get an urge, like a pregnant elephant, to go away and give birth to a book.” —Stephen Fry

In a Nutshell

Elephants are huge, fascinating creatures. If you had to guess a closest relative, you’d probably go with a hippo or maybe a rhino. What you probably wouldn’t guess is that it’s actually the rock hyrax, a small, furry marine mammal that looks more like a gopher than a giant, grey beast.

The Whole Bushel

You probably have never heard of the rock hyrax, which is a small marine mammal primarily found in Eastern Africa and the Middle East. A rock hyrax is small creature covered in short brown fur, and bears more than a passing resemblance to a hamster or a gopher.

That’s probably why it’s almost inconceivable that the rock hyrax is actually the closest evolutionary relative of the elephant. It turns out that while they look absolutely nothing alike on the outside, they share some similar features, albeit on a much, much smaller scale when it comes to the rock hyrax.

Their teeth and skulls are very similar, as are their toes, which are rounded and sport a long nail. A few more interesting facts about the hyrax is that it can survive basically without water, and perfumes are made from its urine and feces.

Show Me The Proof

San Diego Zoo: Rock Hyrax

  • anonymouse72

    “And perfumes are made from its urine and feces”

    Does this mean lipstick is made from fish scales is a true thing?

    • Steve Archibald

      and crushed beetles.

  • rhijulbec

    I am so glad I don’t use perfume and who the hell thought, ”I’ll just collect some of this creatures pee and poop and see if I can use it in something that smell pretty.” !!!???


    I wish I was more surprised over learning this animal’s feces and urine is used as perfume.

  • Geoffrey Jackson

    Your catch line, about the hyrax being “basically a rodent” had me convinced that this would be the sort of information served up by AOL or Huffington, but in fact there’s nothing to change in your summarised presentation. One of the greatest fascinations in Nature is that nothing is certain to really be what it seems to be. Everything needs to be approached with healthy scepticism, and solid knowledge.

    As for the recycling of waste matter by the cosmetics industry… If gentleman in the 1950s had known what a lady had spread across her features kissing would have been less attractive; frequently not attractive at all.

  • LVslotdoc

    Now I know beyond a doubt that Darwin was full of shit!

    • Bob Weaver

      On the contrary….. It backs up Darwinian evolution. It is the elephants closest LIVING relative. Therefore all the intermediate species have all become extinct. Anatomy of the creatures suggest they are related because they have some similarities which no other creatures have although at a brief glance from the outside it seems preposterous. Their similarities could still have been due to convergent evolution so it wasn’t fully known until DNA evidence came along to confirm it.

  • Fran

    I stayed at a hotel in Kenya in 1980. These little furies were everywhere. In the bar, the foyer and everywhere on ground floor and loads outside the entrance. No wonder so many of them. All of them were making babies! The only time one stopped was to chase another female. People spent a lot of energy pretending they could not see them, but all the kids watched and wondered!.