Papio hamadryas

KINGDOM: Animalia (Animals)

PHYLUM: Chordata (Possessing a notochord)

CLASS: Mammalia (Mammals)

ORDER: Primates

FAMILY: Cercopithecidae (Old World Monkeys)

SUB-FAMILY: Cercopithecinae (Monkeys incl. Baboons, macaques and vervets)

GENUS: Papio (Baboons)

SPECIES: Papio hamadryas (Hamadryas baboon)


The hamadryas baboon is native to North Africa and the middle east. It can be found south of the red sea in Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

Male and female hamadryas baboons look different (this is called sexual dimorphism). The face, ears, palms and soles of the feet are bare but males have silver-white fur covering the rest of the body and tail. Males also have a mane, whilst females have brown fur and don’t have a mane. Apart from this, males can be almost twice the size of females!

Hamadryas baboons inhabit sub-desert, arid brushland, steppe, plains, and savanna habitats. These baboons prefer living near high cliffs, as they can then access acacia trees and opuntia cactus.

The hamadryas baboon needs to eat whatever food it can find, since their habitat is very arid. Thus they are omnivores. They will eat grass, roots, fruit, seeds, insects, leaves, buds, flowers, eggs and tree gum. They have also been known to hunt small mammals such as hare and dik dik.

Hamadryas baboons have a highly complex, multi-level social structure and are highly social animals. These baboons are polygynous (males will have more than one female mate at a time). At the base of their social structure are One Male Units or OMUs. These are basically harems, where a single male herds and controls up to about 9 females and their offspring. Clans are formed by two or more OMUs coming together. Two or more clans form a band (30-90 individuals), whereas troops will contain several bands (several hundred individuals). Troops will typically share the same sleeping rocks or cliffs.

Like other primates, these baboons have various communication methods, including tactile (touch), visual and vocal communication.

Visual signals include social presenting, staring, bobbing the head, and tension yawning. Hamadryas baboons may furthermore smack their lips or chatter their teeth. Barks, grunts and calls are part of their oral communication too. As with other primates, social grooming is a very important practice for hamadryas baboons. Other tactile communication includes embracing, slaps, bites and reassuring touching.

The dominant male in the OMU will father most of the offspring. Gestation is about 172 days and females typically give birth to a single offspring. Baby hamadryas baboons will cling to their mother’s fur and will be carried around with her for the first three weeks of their lives. Females peform most of the parental duties and a female may groom an infant that isn’t hers. Dominant males will protect their young from other males and predators as well as tolerating and playing with them. At about one year old, young hamadryas baboons’ black hair will turn brown, like the adults’. Males typically stay with their natal group and will establish their own OMU at between 4 and 6 years old. Females may change groups depending on changes in dominance and generally start joining OMUs between 4-5 years old. They can live up to about 30 years.

Hamadryas baboons are preyed on by leopards, hyenas, and Verreaux’s eagles.

The main threats faced by hamadryas baboons are habitat loss due to agricultural expansion and irrigation projects. They are also hunted for using their skins in ceremonial cloaks.

Did you know?

  • Infants are very intruiging to these baboons and attention is lavished upon them
  • Hamadryas baboons were considered sacred by the ancient Egyptians
  • This species is dependent on water, and is never found far from water sources
  • The callous swellings on the backside of baboons give them a good surface to sit on



Did you know vultures feed on carrion (dead carcasses) and do not kill their own prey? Their feet are weak and better suited to walking on the ground than to picking up prey