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Greater Horseshoe Bat (Rhinolophus ferromequinum)

Diputación de Málaga
Murciélago grande de herradura baja ARL

Greater Horseshoe Bat (Rhinolophus ferromequinum)

Reproduction Zeal Topping Hibernation
Animal Life > Mammals


It is a medium sized bat (total head-body length 5 to 7 cm). It has a very characteristic snout with horseshoe (membranous folds around the nose). Lancet (pointed crease on the snout) wide, short and sharp at the end. It has large ears, with a short tragus (small prominent lobe inside the ear). It has a short tail (3 to 4.5 cm) not protruding from the uropatagium (wing membrane joining tail and legs). The wings are short and wide (forearm length 5.4 to 6.1 cm). Its flight is powerful and very manoeuvrable. Its fur is long, sweet and dense of dark brown tones, greyer on the belly. Females are bigger than males. It emits echolocation sounds on 78 kHz frequencies.

Where does it live?

This species prefers forest and high scrub areas with open spaces and nearby banks, although it is ubiquitous and present in many types of media. It lives from sea level to 1,600 meters above sea level. In winter it uses underground shelters such as mines, tunnels and rock holes with steady temperatures about 11ºC. In summer the breeding colonies can stay in attics, warehouses, even inhabited buildings and other types of cavities that are not rocks cracks or fissures. 

How does it live?

It is a nocturnal animal. Its hunting areas are not very far from shelters (no more than 5 km away). Colonies are mixed with other species but are not very numerous. It flies quite low (3 to 4 m). It feeds hunting moths and flying or dung beetles. It likes exploring pastures with beef cattle. Its hunting skill includes the use of innkeepers and perches on which it waits for the passage of its prey to launch itself in pursuit among the branches or capture them at the pass. Comparatively, it hunts like the goshawks. The breeding colonies are usually not far away from the winter shelters (maximum 50 km) where it spends the coldest dormancy months (hibernation). 

How does it reproduce?

Greater horseshoe bats start rutting at the end of summer; mating being able to last until the winter lethargy period. Births occur the following year, concentrating from May to June. Each female gives birth to a single offspring. The females have four breasts, but two are false and serve only the let the offspring hold their mothers well. The offspring flies 15 days after birth and becomes independent after two months. Sexual maturity occurs between 3 and 4 years of life, with males being more precocious. They are very faithful in the use of breeding shelters.

Where can we see it in Málaga?

It is a very common and widely distributed species among the province. There are colonies in the main Malaga mountain ranges. We can find it on almost every stage  of the Great Path (Gran Senda).

Curious facts

All horseshoe bat species have a membranous structure in the nose giving them a very peculiar appearance. The structure consists of a peripheral membrane with a horseshoe shape on which there is a folded structure called the "saddle", just at the level of the nostrils; and of a fold of the snout in the upper area that is called "lancet" and that looks like a small snout. All this complex system actually works as a satellite dish allowing them to guide and direct very efficiently the ultrasound waves that they emit through the nose to echolocate their prey (better than other bats do). Thanks to this sense, bats see images very similar to those of ultrasounds.

Similar species

As they fly and at a glance all bat species are similar. They can only be distinguished by the ultrasound frequency they emit. It is very rare to observe them when they cling. The shape of the tragus, the snout or the size of the ears are the key factor to distinguish them. In the big horseshoe bat, the presence of folds or horseshoe in the nose are the feature distinguishing them from other bats.

Routes where it can be observed

More information