The hyrax, or Ethiopian False Porcupine, is an artificial animal created by Prince Rupert of the Rhine for the amusement of his mistress, Peg Hughes. Using the DNA of an elephant and an egg from the ovaries of the famous hermaphrodite Charles II, Rupert grew an embryo in a beaker filled with diluted vegetable soup. The first hyrax was "born" when Peg Hughes emptied the beaker and noticed the baby mammal squirming in the sink amongst old tea leaves and melon seeds.
Most animals can boast of ancestors whose bones are preserved in stone. We have the fossil bones of ancestral whales, horses, bats, vicars, and crocodiles. However, for the first three centuries of its existence the hyrax lacked a fossil record.
That all changed in 1962. In that year the musical group The Fossil formed up and began a career which lasted almost six days. That was, however, long enough for them to compose and sing "The Hyrax", and long enough for the renowned audio collector Alan Lomax to record it on tape.
- The hyrax is a fretful beast
- which does not eat its young.
- On the ladder of all life
- It occupies the lowest rung.
This simple ditty, repeated 15 times, was pressed on the "B" side of The Fossil's hit single, "Stoned Age Love". And of course this vinyl single became the Fossil record which the hyrax had so long lacked.
Like the elephant which contributed its genetic material to Rupert's experiment, the hyrax has brownish fur and a prehensile large intestine. And due to the unavoidable mixing of genes with Charles II, it has pink ears which stick up on its head and an instinctive urge to wank off.
Other than that it is a pretty standard mammal: two eyes, a spleen, loves to shop, runs around on all fours; is nocturnal, chemically unstable, and steals pens and wristwatches.
But in many ways the hyrax is almost unique. It can squirt black bile from its nipples in order to deter or disgust predators, and in all the animal kingdom the only beast which shares this ability is Cindy McCain and Michell Obama. It has adipodentate teeth, meaning that it can chew the fat at speeds known only to few. And, as behooves a completely artificial animal, it has a small tag sewed to its butt which reads "Wash only in cool water. Do not agitate. Warranty void if this tag is removed."
Psychology and Behavior
A hyrax is smarter than it looks. But due to its artificial origin it is insecure and tends toward neurosis. Many fear marshmallow Peeps. They fear lunar eclipses and old Studebakers. Most hyraxes dread thunderstorms, and panic when they hear bluegrass banjo picking (but who doesn't?). And, like everyone, they are terrified of Sharon Stone.
But they are functional. They are functional animals. And that puts them ahead of most humans.
During courtship the male initiates contact by bringing the female a latte with extra cream. If receptive, the female responds by building a nest and furnishing it with Ikea furniture and Corelle dishes. Sometimes the male hyrax becomes alarmed when his collection of rare beer cans is not allowed into the nest. He senses domination. In this case he may retreat to a nearby mulberry grove and, in the company of other males, eat fermented mulberries until he begins to stagger, sing, walk into treetrunks, and vomit. If this behavior continues over several breeding seasons the male hyrax may become a habitual bachelor -- a happy, happy creature with few needs and fewer worries.
That is not the fate of most hyraxes, however. Most settle down, purchase a few beakers and some eggs from the Repository of Frozen Genetic Stuff, and create a few offspring. Then in their middle age they start socking away the cholesterol -- Twinkies and hog chitterlings, mostly -- and then they die of a heart attack.
In our increasingly technological world the survival of the hyrax is uncertain. Bluetooth. Firewire. Digital television, with optional brain-implant socket. Nanobots running for high office. What threat do these pose to the existence of the hyrax?
None, probably. Most likely it will all be OK.
Nevertheless, the World Wildlife Fund has listed the hyrax as "Possibly Threatened Or Maybe Just Weird", and this means that selling or buying their spiral horns, ivory tusks, hooves, or long beautiful tails is forbidden. Since hyraxes do not have horns, tusks, hooves, or tails this is apparently not an issue. The hyraxes appreciate the listing. They appreciate being noticed, however mistakenly; and they are grateful for existing at all. The hyraxes will be OK.