Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Rock Hyraxes are "exceedingly wise"

According to the BBC, hyraxes once roamed Africa, Europe, the Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula. About 50 million years ago, they were probably the dominant grazers of these areas, some of them were as large as hippos.

Hyraxes are genetically related to elephants. Again, from the BBC

Hyrax social structure is remarkably like that of elephants. Their close-knit colonies comprise several related females and their young. When young males reach maturity, the dominant male forces them out to seek kopjes new. Male conflict is surprisingly aggressive, especially in the mating season when the size of the males' internal testes (a feature shared with elephants) increases twenty-fold, presumably matched by increased testosterone levels.

According to a very poorly cited wikipedia article, early Phonecian navigators mistook the rabbits of the Iberian Peninsula for for hyraxes (Hebrew Shaphan); hence they named it I-Shapan-im, meaning "land of the hyraxes", which became the Latin word "Hispania," the root of España and the English name Spain.

The word "rabbit" was used instead of "hyrax" many times in some earlier English Bible translations. European translators of those times had no knowledge of the hyrax (Hebrew שָּׁפָןShaphan[1]), and therefore no name for them. There are references to hyraxes in the Old Testament [2] which seem to mistakenly identify hyraxes and rabbits as ruminating animals (i.e. animals that chew cud. This is possibly because they "appear to be so from working the jaws on the grasses they live on."[3]).


The shephanim are not mighty people, Yet they make their houses in the rocks (Proverbs 30:26 NAS)

Hyrax and shephanim are also known as conies. So, according to King James, which is usually more poetic:

"There be four things which are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise: The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer; The conies are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks; The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands; The spider taketh hold with her hands, and is in kings' palaces." (Proverbs 30:24:28 KJV)
Also, it's not kosher to eat a rock hyrax.

1 comment:

douglang said...

King James forgot to mention bozos, who boozed, made their home in saloons and tooketh large gulps.

This is really some amazing info., especially the stuff about "Hispania." No, not especiall that -- all of it. Nice one.