Baboon — The five baboon species are some of the largest non-hominid members of the primate order; only the Mandrill and the Drill are larger. In modern scientific use, only members of the genus Papio are called baboons, but previously the closely related Gelada (genus Theropithecus) and two species of Mandrill and Drill (genus Mandrillus) were grouped in the same genus, and these monkeys are still often referred to as baboons in everyday speech. The word “baboon” comes from “babouin”, the name given to them by the French naturalist Buffon. The baboon held several positions in Egyptian mythology. The baboon god Baba, was worshipped in Pre-Dynastic times; alternatively, this may be the origin of the animal’s name. Papio belongs to family Cercopithecidae, in subfamily Cercopithecinae.
All baboons have long dog-like muzzles (cynocephalus = dog-head), close-set eyes, heavy powerful jaws, thick fur except on their muzzle, a short tail and rough spots on their protruding hindquarters, called ischial callosities. These callouses are nerveless, hairless pads of skin which are present to provide for the sitting comfort of the baboon (and other Old World monkeys). Males of the Hamadryas Baboon species also have a large white mane.
There is considerable variation in size and weight depending on species, the Guinea Baboon is 50 cm (20 inches) and weighs only 14 kg (30 lb) while the biggest Chacma Baboon can be 120 cm (47 inches) and weigh 40 kg (90 lb).
In all baboon species there is pronounced sexual dimorphism, usually in size but also sometimes in colour or canine development.
Baboons are terrestrial (ground dwelling) and are found in savanna, open woodland and hills across Africa. Their diet is omnivorous, but is usually vegetarian. They are foragers and are active at irregular times throughout the day and night. They can raid human dwellings and in South Africa they have been known to prey on sheep and goats.
Their principal predators are man and the leopard, although they are tough prey for a leopard and large males will often confront them by flashing their eyelids, showing their teeth by yawning, making gestures, and chasing after the intruder/predator.
Baboons in captivity have been known to live up to 45 years, while in the wild their life expectancy is about 30 years.
Most baboons live in hierarchical troops of 5 to 250 animals (50 or so is common), depending on specific circumstances, especially species and time of year. The structure within the troop varies considerably between Hamadryas Baboons and the remaining species, sometimes collectively referred to as savanna baboons. The Hamadryas Baboon has very large groups comprised of many smaller harems (one male with four or so females), to which females from elsewhere in the troop are recruited while still too young to breed. The other baboon species have a more promiscuous structure with a strict dominance hierarchy based on the female matriline. The Hamadryas Baboon group will typically include a younger male, but he will not attempt to mate with the females unless the older male is removed.