(Heb. shaphan; i.e., "the hider"), an animal which inhabits the mountain gorges and the rocky districts of Arabia Petraea and the Holy Land. "The conies are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks" (Prov. 30:26; Ps. 104:18). They are gregarious, and "exceeding wise" (Prov. 30:24), and are described as chewing the cud (Lev. 11:5; Deut. 14:7).
The animal intended by this name is known among naturalists as the Hyrax Syriacus. It is neither a ruminant nor a rodent, but is regarded as akin to the rhinoceros. When it is said to "chew the cud," the Hebrew word so used does not necessarily imply the possession of a ruminant stomach. "The lawgiver speaks according to appearances; and no one can watch the constant motion of the little creature's jaws, as it sits continually working its teeth, without recognizing the naturalness of the expression" (Tristram, Natural History of the Bible). It is about the size and color of a rabbit, though clumsier in structure, and without a tail. Its feet are not formed for digging, and therefore it has its home not in burrows but in the clefts of the rocks. "Coney" is an obsolete English word for "rabbit."
), a gregarious animal of the class Pachydermata, which is found in Palestine, living in the caves and clefts of the rocks, and has been erroneously identified with the rabbit or coney. Its scientific name as Hyrax syriacus
. The hyrax satisfies exactly the expressions in (Psalms 104:18
; Proverbs 30:26
) Its color is gray or brown on the back, white on the belly; it is like the alpine marmot, scarcely of the size of the domestic cat, having long hair, a very short tail and round ears. It is found on Lebanon and in the Jordan and Dead Sea valleys.
- ko'-ni (shaphan (Lev 11:5
; Dt 14:7
; Ps 104:18
; Prov 30:26
)): The word "coney" (formerly pronounced cooney) means "rabbit" (from Latin cuniculus). Shaphan is rendered in all four passages in the Septuagint choirogrullios, or "hedge-hog," but is now universally considered to refer to the Syrian hyrax, Procavia (or Hyrax) Syriaca, which in southern Palestine and Sinai is called in Arabic wabar, in northern Palestine and Syria Tabsun, and in southern Arabia shufun, which is etymologically closely akin to shaphan. The word "hyrax" (hurax) itself means "mouse" or "shrew-mouse" (compare Latin sorex), so that it seems to have been hard to find a name peculiar to this animal. In Lev 11:5
the Revised Version, margin, we find "rock badger," which is a translation of klip das, the rather inappropriate name given by the Boers to the Cape hyrax. The Syrian hyrax lives in Syria, Palestine and Arabia. A number of other species, including several that are arboreal, live in Africa. They are not found in other parts of the world. In size, teeth and habits the Syrian hyrax somewhat resembles the rabbit, though it is different in color, being reddish brown, and lacks the long hind legs of the rabbit. The similarity in dentition is confined to the large size of the front teeth and the presence of a large space between them and the back teeth. But whereas hares have a pair of front teeth on each jaw, the hyrax has one pair above and two below. These
teeth differ also in structure from those of the hare and rabbit, not having the persistent pulp which enables the rabbit's front teeth to grow continually as they are worn away. They do not hide among herbage like hares, nor burrow like rabbits, but live in holes or clefts of the rock, frequently in the faces of steep cliffs. Neither the hyrax nor the hare is a ruminant, as seems to be implied in Lev 11:5 and Dt 14:7, but their manner of chewing their food may readily have led them to be thought to chew the cud. The hyrax has four toes in front and three behind (the same number as in the tapir and in some fossil members of the horse family), all furnished with nails that are almost like hoofs, except the inner hind toes, which have claws. The hyraxes constitute a family of ungulates and, in spite of their small size, have points of resemblance to elephants or rhinoceroses, but are not closely allied to these or to any other known animals.
The camel, the coney and the hare are in the list of unclean animals because they "chew the cud but divide not the hoof," but all three of these are eaten by the Arabs.
The illustration is from a photograph of a group of conies in the Syrian Protestant College at Beirut, prepared by Mr. Douglas Carruthers, who collected these specimens in a cliff in the neighborhood of Tyre. Specimens from the Dead Sea are redder than those from Syria.
Alfred Ely Day