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Egytian Mongoose (Herpestes ichneumon)

Diputación de Málaga
Meloncillo (Herpestes ichneumon)

Egytian Mongoose (Herpestes ichneumon)

Reproduction Zeal Topping Hibernation
Animal Life > Mammals


It is a medium sized carnivore (head-body length 46  to 54 cm), with an elongated body and a long tail (36 to 45 cm). The head ends in a tip with a black snout. The ears are round and small. The eyes have vertical pupils, giving it a haunting look. It has a dark brown fur in general, with strong hair, alternating light cream and brown tones, giving it a scaly appearance. The tail is brown with a black tip. The legs are short with no shrinking nails. Males are bigger than females.

Where does it live?

This species uses Mediterranean scrub area with a large vegetation cover. It prefers brooks with brambles, reeds and thick oleander. It avoids open areas and scrub mosaics where there can be bigger predators. In crop areas, it always uses riverbank areas, where it can better regulate its body temperature during the summer months. It avoids open or densely wooded areas, as well as arboreal crops. It usually does not go to areas exceeding 1,000 meters above sea level.

How does it live?

It is one of the few diurnal carnivores. Its normal activity period coincides with the time from sunrise to sunset. It is usually active all morning and at dusk when it retires to rest. It spends most of its time looking for food. It has a generalist diet, consuming the food that is available at all times. Its food spectrum includes the capture of young rabbits, rodents, insects and small birds or the consumption of mushrooms, fruits and carrion. However, one of its star prey is reptiles, especially snakes. This animal lives in family groups (groups of 5 to 6 mongooses), but may also live alone or in pairs. Its territory can be up to 3 km2   .

How does it reproduce?

Mongooses can reproduce at any time of the year, although in most cases the mating period (spring) and the time of births are very marked (early summer). Births can last until September and are usually of 2 to 4 offspring. It usually uses old locks or rabbit holes as breeding and resting burrows. The offspring spend one year with their mother. At that time, when they leave the camp, they all go in single file behind the mother, creating the impression of a large animal that moves stealthily through the bushes.

Where can we see it in Málaga?

This species is present in almost the whole province, except maybe the north-eastern area. It is common, abundant and easy to observe. On the Great Path (Gran Senda), we can observe it on almost all stages, being less likely on stages 3 to 16.

Curious facts

The Egyptian mongoose is the only mongoose type living in Europe.  It has always been thought that it was an African species introduced by the Arabs in the Peninsula conquest. Recent studies have shown that there is a high genetic difference degree with their African relatives, which leads us to believe that they entered the peninsula before the arrival of the Arabs, and that they had to cross the Strait on their own at the end of the Pleistocene. It is currently an expanding species associated with the process of thickets and abandonment of rural life that has also favoured the wild boar. The mongooses have anatomical mechanisms and genetic defences that allow them to counteract snake venom and be efficient snake killers. Mongooses are not an exception.

Similar species

It is an unmistakable species.

Routes where it can be observed

More information