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Sacred Baboon

Sacred Baboon


Sacred Baboon Baby
Sacred Baboon Baby

Sacred Baboon Habits

The sacred baboon inhabits the rocky hill country of Ethiopia. Baboons spend more time on the ground than any other type of monkey. Its limbs are specially adapted to life on the ground, and it can run quickly on all fours. It does not climb very well, but will do so to reach fruit.
The sacred baboon spends much of the day searching for food. At noon it may seek out a shady spot to rest. Adults nap or pick dirt from each other's fur; the young baboons wrestle and play.
At dusk, the baboon retreats to its sleeping site located high up on a steep cliff. Cliffs with suitable ledges are favored resting places because they provide some protection from the baboon's main predator, the leopard. Suitable ledges are not easy to find, however, and each night as many as 750 baboons may gather together to sleep.

Sacred Baboon Communication

Baboons have a complex system of communication that includes vocalizations, facial expressions, posturing, and gesturing. These vocalizations, which baboons use to express emotions, include grunts, lip-smacking, screams, and alarm calls. The intensity of the emotion is conveyed by repetition of the sounds in association with other forms of communication.
Baboons communicate with each other primarily through body gestures and facial expressions. The most noticeable facial expression is an open-mouth threat where the baboon bares the canine teeth. Preceding this may be an eyelid signal, raising the eyebrows and showing the whites of the eyes, that is used to show displeasure. If a baboon really becomes aggressive, the hair may also stand on end, threatening sounds will be made, and the ground will be slapped.
In response to aggressive facial expressions and body gestures, other baboons usually exhibit submissive gestures. A fear-face, a response to aggression, involves pulling the mouth back in what looks like a wide grin.

Sacred Baboon Breeding

The sacred baboon lives in a male-dominated group, which is exceptional among baboons. Each group is divided into small bands consisting of one male and one to ten females. The male becomes sexually mature at 7 years of age. But before he can breed, he must first establish a harem of females. Finding available females is difficult because every mature female in the group already belongs to another male who will fight fiercely to protect his harem. So the young male will either court an immature female or try to steal females from the male of another band.
If a male finds an available young female, he teaches her to follow him by walking between her and her mother. Eventually, the female will begin to follow the male instead of her mother. Once a bond is formed between the pair, the male will bite the female's neck to maintain his control over her. Once a male has acquired a mate, their bond is recognized by the other males in the band. Male band members will defend each other against attacks from males of other bands intent on stealing their females.
Mating occurs throughout the year, although in the drier part of the baboon's range, most young are born after the rainy season, when food is more plentiful. The young baboon is born with fur and with its eyes open. It spends the first few weeks of its life clinging to its mother's breast. As it grows and becomes more confident, it will ride on her back.
The young sacred baboon matures slowly, during which time it usually remains within the family group. Young are weaned at 18 months, by which time the mother will either have new young or be pregnant again.

Sacred Baboon Food & Feeding

Early each morning, the baboon group breaks up into small foraging parties which climb down the cliffs and set off in search of food. The baboons must forage in small groups because the land is barren and food supplies are scattered.
The sacred baboon feeds mainly on fruit, which it picks from bushes and trees with the use of its relatively long thumbs. When fruit is not available, the baboon will eat large quantities of grass, which it tears up by the handful. During the dry season, the baboon may also dig up the tuberous roots of various desert grasses and flowers.
The sacred baboon's long, doglike jaws are packed with large molars which it uses to grind up tough and fibrous vegetation. The baboon also eats insects, lizards, snails, and other small invertebrates, and it will occasionally catch small mammals such as young gazelles and hares.
When searching for food, the young baboon usually stays close to its mother. It learns from observation how to find food, how it should be broken apart or peeled, and which parts should be eaten. The mother will prevent her offspring from eating anything potentially harmful.

Sacred Baboon Key Facts

              Height: Length: Head and body, 24-30 inches. Tail 15-24 inches
              Weight: Males, 40 pounds. Females, 20 pounds
             Sexual maturity: Males: 7 years. Females: 5 years
             Mating: Year-round
             Gestation: 170-173 days
             Number of young: Usually 1
            Habit: Social, diurnal
            Diet: Fruits, grasses, roots, lizards, insects, and occasionally small animals
            Lifespan: Maximum in captivity: 37 1/2 years



  • An old male baboon who has his harem stolen often loses his silver hair and grows brown fur like the female.
  • The sacred baboon's colorful, furless buttocks are believed to help group members keep sight of each other when moving through thick vegetation.
  • The male sacred baboon may occasionally mate with a female olive baboon and produce fertile offspring. The male olive baboon, however, never mates with a female sacred baboon because it lacks the ability to attract her.
  • Sacred baboons will raid a crop field in which women are working, but will stay clear of those in which men are working, since they may be armed.
  • Ancient Egyptian royalty often kept baboons as pets.

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