Greater cane rat

Thryonomys swinderianus


Thryonomys swinderianus (Temminck, 1827), Sierra Leone. OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Le grand aulacode; German: Großen Rohrratte. PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Male total length 26.1-30.9 in (670-792 mm); tail length 7.0-7.5 in (180-192 mm); mass 11.0-14.3 lb (5.0-6.5 kg). Females total length 25.5-26.1 in (654-670 mm); tail 6.4-7.6 in (165-195 mm); mass 7.5-8.4 lb (3.4-3.8 kg). They have stocky bodies with strong limbs. The front feet are smaller than the hind ones. The small ears are broader than they are high and almost completely covered by fur.

The skull is powerfully built with enormous orange incisors. Information on the size of these animals in Africa varies greatly with weights of up to 19.8 lb (9 kg) being reported. In the southern African subregion, such large animals have never been reported.


Almost all African countries west of the Sahara. It does not occur in rainforests, deserts, and dry shrub. Corresponding with their habitat, they either have a wide or restricted distribution in the countries where they occur. They have been documented in West Africa from Gambia to Cameroon, Central African Republic, Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi,

Mozambique, Zambia, Angola, northern border of Namibia and Botswana, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.


They can be found in swampy low-lying areas along river banks and streams where there are reed beds or areas of dense tall grass.


Predominantly nocturnal. Occur solitarily or in small family groups with a dominant male, females, and young. When alarmed, they stamp their hind feet and make a whistling sound. They make grunting noises when relaxed and feeding. When fleeing, they run very fast and will easily take to water.


They are vegetarian and consume various kinds of grass, bark, and shrubs. They can be a severe pest in vegetable gardens and crop plantations.


Assumed to be polygynous. Normal gestation range is 152-156 days. Two to four young at birth; range is one to six. Birth mass 2.8-5.3 oz (80-150 g). Weaning mass 13.1-24.1 oz (374-688 g).


Not threatened.


Meat very popular in many African countries. Many families depend on the selling of cane rat meat for income. In South Africa, some farmers are experimenting to farm them on a commercial basis. On the other hand, they can be severe pests in vegetable gardens and crops and can be regarded as a local pest. ♦

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