The Dassie Rat – a rodent that chews the cud

Dassie Rat
Courtsey: Focusingonwildlife.com

The Dassie Rat (Petromus typicus) is the only surviving member of it’s family. Dassie is the Afrikaans term for hyrax and as they live among the same rocks, the name stuck to this rodent too. They are related to cane rats and are unique among rodents in that they regurgitate their food and chew it again. A characteristic mostly to be found in cattle. They also have a similar diet of grasses, leaves and seeds.

They have a squirrel-like body, usually around 15 -21  cms. The long, hairy tail is itself between 12-15 cms long. The body colour ranges from chocolate to black. In addition they have clawed feet; short, rounded ears; a yellowish nose with long black whiskers.

They have a flattened skull and flexible ribs that make it easy for them to squeeze into tight openings in the rocks.  The female’s nipples are also placed on the side of the body so that the babies can suckle from the side when crammed in narrow crevices.

The dassie rat is found in arid and semi-arid regions southwestern Africa in Namibia, Angola, and northwest South Africa. They live in small groups of a few individuals that are most active during the early morning and early evening hours.

The female dassie rat gives birth to a litter 2-3 fur-covered babies once a year, usually in December or January. The dassie rat babies eat solid food when they are around two weeks old.

 

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