February: Dassie Moon

The dassie (rock hyrax, Procavia capensis) is a native of Africa and the Middle East. It is an exceptional animal as it is the closest living relative of the much larger African elephant (Loxodonta africana) and, oddly enough, also of the manatees or sea cows (family Trichechidae, genus Trichechus) and dugong (Dugong dugong).

It is also exceptional in the sense that its digestive tract contains an organ found only in birds and in no other mammal. It is a hardy and adaptable animal which was also an important food source for the San and Khoi.

The name dassie appears to be an identification error by the Dutch captain Joris van Spillbergen in 1601 when he saw the animals on Dassen Island. “Das” in Dutch is a badger, which the dassie does not resemble, and he might have confused it with the marmot, to which it bears a superficial resemblance. Nevertheless, “das” stuck and eventually became dassie.

There are records of dassies being shot by the San and Khoi and traded for tobacco from travellers between 1658 and 1779. Van Spillbergen reported in 1601 that the dassie was “… very tasty, like lamb or mutton, since they feed only on the herbs and grasses …” In 1652 similar comments were passed by van Riebeeck when visiting Dassen Island. The Nama even named a section of their year (corresponding roughly to March) after it, (!hoaǂgais).

In the drier inland areas of South Africa it is an important element in the food chain for other animals such as the jackal, caracal and raptors. In the /Xam mythology the dassie was the wife of the Mantis and their adopted daughter is the porcupine. The dassie also features in several of the /Xam narratives.

The dassie is an iconic and much photographed animal at many of the tourist attractions in South Africa such as Table Mountain.

Place names associated with the dassie:

Dasbos (hyrax-bush) is situated in the Cederberg Local Municipality of the Western Cape Province in the southern part of the Olifantsrivier ‘elephant’s riverʼ Mountains. The name ‘dasbosʼ also ‘dassiebosʼ ‘hyrax-bushʼ refers to an aromatic shrub Stachys rugosa which grows there. The leaves of the plant, when crushed, emit an odour reminiscent of ‘dassieʼ or ‘hyraxʼ (Procavia capensis) urine.

Dasbosrivier (hyrax-bush river) is situated in the Theewaterskloof Local Municipality of the Western Cape Province near Villiersdorp ‘Town of Field Cornet de Villiersʼ. The name ‘dasbosʼ also ‘dassiebosʼ ‘hyrax-bushʼ refers to an aromatic shrub Stachys rugosa which grows there. The leaves of the plant, when crushed, emit an odour reminiscent of ‘dassieʼ or ‘hyraxʼ (Procavia capensis) urine and a tea made from the shrub is considered a general tonic and a lactation promoter.

Dassieboskloofrivier (hyrax-bush-ravine-river) in the Cederberg District Municipality of the Western Cape Province is situated north of the Skerpioensberg peak ‘Scorpion mountainʼ in the Cederberg mountains. The name refers to the ‘dassiebosʼ ‘dassie-bushʼ (Stachys rugosa) which grows there. This river becomes the Tra-tra river at Wupperthal and it is possible that the KhoiKhoi name for the ‘dassiebosʼ was ‘tratraʼ.

Dasklippas (hyrax-stone pass) in the Bergrivier Local Municipality of the Western Cape Province is situated close to the town of Porterville on the road to the Groot Winterhoek ‘Great Winter-cornerʼ Wilderness Area. It is a very popular venue for paragliders and hang-gliders.

Daspoort (hyrax-defile) is situated in the Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality of the Gauteng Province and is about 6 km north-west of Church Square. It was laid out in 1897 on the farm ‘Daspoortʼ and the name was given by Andries Pretorius when he passed through there with his wagons in 1836 because of the large number of hyrax ‘dassiesʼ they saw there.

Dassenberg (hyrax mountain) in the Cederberg Local Municipality of the Western Cape Province is the former name of the Heerenlogementsberg (gentlemens lodging mountain) it is derived from a misnaming by the Dutch because a ‘dasʼ in Dutch is actually a ‘badgerʼ, but the name stuck, A ‘dassieʼ is a ‘rock-rabbit’ or more correctly a ‘Hyraxʼ (Procavia capensis) and the name ‘Dassenbergʼ was given by Simon van der Stel, who was the last commander (1679-1691) and first Governor at the Dutch Cape Colony from 1691 to 1699.

Dasseneiland (dassie island) is an island 58 km north-west of Table Bay. So called because of the abundance of rock-rabbits or ‘Hyraxʼ (Procavia capensis), encountered there. Named ‘Ilha Brancaʼ or ‘white island’ by the early Portuguese mariners, it was renamed ‘Elizabeth Eilandʼ by Joris van Spilbergen in 1601, and Coney Island by Sir Edward Michelbourne in 1605. The form Dasseneiland is preferred for official purposes.

Dassiefontein (hyrax-fountain) in the Theewaterskloof Local Municipality of the Western Cape Province is a roadside restaurant on the N2 highway near the town of Caledon. It is situated on a farm of the same name.

Dassiesdraairivier (hyrax-bend river) in the Prince Albert Local Municipality of the Western Cape Province is a stream near the town of Klaarstroom. The name was given because of the large number of hyrax ‘dassiesʼ seen there.

Dassiesdraairivier (hyrax-bend river) in the Prince Albert Local Municipality of the Western Cape Province is a stream near the town of Klaarstroom. The name was given because of the large number of hyrax ‘dassiesʼ seen there.

Dassieshoek (hyrax-corner, hyrax-nook) in the Langeberg Local Municipality of the Western Cape Province is a Nature Reserve situated about 8 km north of Robertson on the slopes of the Langeberg ‘long mountainʼ..

Dassieshoekpas (hyrax-corner pass, hyrax-nook pass) in the Langeberg Local Municipality of the Western Cape Province is a gravel road that connects the town of Robertson to the Dassieshoek Nature Reserve. The pass has a relatively easy gradient but includes some extremely sharp corners.


The interval between two Full Moons is about 29.5306 days (a synodic month). All months – except February – have at least 30 days, so it is possible for there to be two Full Moons per month. But because February has at most 29 days, there can never be a second Full Moon in February.


Dates of Dassie Moon

2020 Feb 09, 09:30
2021 Feb 27, 10:18
2022 Feb 16, 18:54
2023 Feb 05, 20:30
2024 Feb 24, 14:30
2025 Feb 12, 15:54
2026 Feb 01, 00:06
2027 Feb 20, 01:24
2028 Feb 10, 17:00
2029 Feb 28, 19:06
2030 Feb 18, 08:18
2031 Feb 07, 14:42
2032 Feb 26, 09:42
2033 Feb 14, 09:06
2034 Feb 03, 12:06

2035 Feb 22, 11:00
2036 Feb 11, 00:06
2038 Feb 19, 18:06
2039 Feb 09, 05:42
2040 Feb 28, 03:00
2041 Feb 16, 04:18
2042 Feb 05, 04:00
2043 Feb 23, 00:00
2044 Feb 13, 08:42
2045 Feb 01, 23:06
2046 Feb 20, 01:42
2047 Feb 10, 16:36
2048 Feb 29, 16:36
2049 Feb 17, 22:48
2050 Feb 06, 22:48


Further reading

https://www.sanbi.org/animal-of-the-week/dassie/

  • Lewis-Williams, J.D. (2015) Myth and Meaning: San-Bushman Folklore in a Global Context. UCT Press / Juta and Company (Pty) Ltd.
  • Skead, C.J. (1989) Historical Mammal Incidence in the Cape Province. Vol. 1. The Western and Northern Cape (6th impression). The Department of Nature and Environmental Conservation of the Provincial Administration of the Cape of Good Hope.
  • Smithers, R.H. N. (1983) Die Soogdiere van die Suider-Afrikaanse Substreek. Universiteit van Pretoria, Pretoria.
  • Stuart, C., Stuart, T. (1995) Veldgids tot die Soogdiere van Suider-Afrika. 2nd ed. Struik.


Heritage Full Moons in South Africa

MonthFirst Full MoonSecond Full Moon
JanuaryMantis MoonLeopard Moon
FebruaryDassie Moon——
MarchHarvest MoonOchre Moon
AprilDiamond MoonGold Moon
MayFrost MoonFire Moon
JuneSisters MoonHoney Moon
JulyMeerkat MoonProtea Moon
AugustPeace MoonDusty Moon
SeptemberSpring MoonBlue Crane Moon
OctoberWhale MoonElephant Moon
NovemberMilk MoonWool Moon
DecemberSpringbok MoonEland Moon

Protecting South Africa’s astronomical heritage