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Post A WAIS Parenthesis: The Hyrax (from Gary Moore)
Created by John Eipper on 01/10/20 4:16 AM

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A WAIS Parenthesis: The Hyrax (from Gary Moore) (John Eipper, USA, 01/10/20 4:16 am)

Gary Moore writes:

Just in parens here for a moment: Our fearless moderator JE is really on his game. Not only has he recently managed to encourage two richly, frankly informative snapshots of viewpoints on Iran, packed with raw data about real-world feelings pro and con, but also his cautionary musings--defying the word "trivial"--have helped spark deep instructiveness on everything from language to peonage to (that biggest of phantoms haunting the "trivial" periphery) the riddles of synchronicity.

I'm moved to reply to all of these, but will stop myself (for now) with John's latest provocative free-association: the hyrax. Here, previously unknown to me, is the other shoe to go with the Australian marsupial wolf, suggesting how animal forms are living reflections of their environments, so that even if an accustomed genotype is absent in a given arena (no wolves to compete with the later dingos in Australia) existing candidates may transmute to fill that niche anyway--creating wolves out of the 'possums (not to mention the possum-cows, as in that more familiarly pouched Australian icon).

Hyraxes as rabbit-mini-elephants? Filling the rabbit niche but only looking like rodents? Does such "trivilaity" matter at all in a world dark with the threat of war? Unfortunately for the bewildered human intellect, in the long run of human ruin and folly, it may matter more.

JE comments:  Can't say I've ever seen a hyrax, although our local groundhogs could pass for one.  Wikipedia (who also loaned us the image below) tells us they are elephantine because their tusks emerge from the incisors.  We also learn that the Bible refers to hyraxes "chewing their cud," although they are not ruminants in the strict sense.  This reference, from Leviticus, is unquestionably one of the more obscure passages of the Bible.

A question for our Spanish WAISers:  when was the last time you came across a hyrax?

The Hyrax

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  • I Have Seen the Hyrax/Dassie (Jose Manuel de Prada, -Spain 01/10/20 6:36 AM)
    I have seen hyraxes (or dassies, as they are more commonly called) many a time in South Africa, although not during my latest visit last November-December.

    They are indeed furry and cute.

    They are easy enough to spot on Table Mountain, and in many places not far from Cape Town. Certainly in the Cederberg mountains and the Upper Karoo, where I regularly go to do fieldwork among the descendants of the original Khoisan inhabitants of those areas.

    In the mythology of the /xam hunter-gatherers of the dry Karoo, Dassie was the long-suffering wife of Mantis, the divine trickster.

    Current folk belief in these areas tells about the dassie-adder, a hybrid creature with the body of a snake and the head of a hyrax. It hypnotizes its victims before devouring them.

    The urine of the dassie is almost solid, and in the rock shelters where they live it accumulates in huge quantities. I have seen these mounds of almost petrified urine when visiting rock art sites.  In the traditional pharmacopeia of southern Africa this substance is supposed to have medicinal properties.

    The dentition of dassies change as they grow, and this helps archaelogists to determine the season in which a given deposit was made (because the Bushmen hunted them often for their meat and skin).

    Wherever dassies live, one can easily spot black eagles, which feed mostly on them.

    I wonder if the idea that Hispania means "land of the dassies" has any substance.

    JE comments:  Solid urine?  This is something totally new for me.  The dassie/hyrax must be a severely dehydrated (dehyraxated?) little guy, but perfectly suited to dry climates.

    José Manuel, Happy New Year, and please tell us about your latest research trip.  Since WAISer Tim Ashby moved from S Africa to Mallorca, we haven't had an update.

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