26 August 2010

A Large Grey Mongoose At Tygerberg

I got my first photograph of a Large Grey Mongoose at Tygerberg this month.

The Large Grey Mongoose (Grootgrysmuishond - Herpestes ichneumon) is also known as the Egyptian Mongoose

The Large Grey Mongoose was kept as a pet in ancient Egypt to control rodent and snake numbers. Snakes do not form a major part of their diet, but they do kill and eat them when the opportunity arises. Their size, long fur and a resilience against snake venom makes the whole business a little saver for the mongoose.

They are mostly diurnal and prey largely on small mammals. They prefer well watered areas close to rivers, streams, ponds, etc.

Now, some of you might be thinking: "Wait! I've seen this mongoose on this blog before... It's clearly a Small Grey Mongoose!". Well, to that I would reply: "Aha, but look at the tail, especially the point...".

I was starting to think that I might be nearing the end of the mammal diversity at Tygerberg, but there might still be 2 or 3 species out there to find. I also still want to try for shrews sometime soon :)

Gus Mills and Lex Hes (1997). The Complete Book of Southern African Mammals. Cape Town: Struik Winchester. 212.


  1. Very nice portrait of the sacred mongoose of the pyramids. I will patiently wait for you cams to expose the other ones and the shrews.

  2. Thanks.

    There are also some subterranean mammals at Tygerberg such as the Golden Moles and Molerats, but I don’t have the faintest idea how to capture them on camera…

  3. To whom it may concern

    My name is Melissa and I work for 30 Degrees South Publishers. We are publishing a book on the Okavango and are looking to purchase a picture of a Large grey mongoose. We noticed that you have a picture of one on your website. We would like to include it in our book, and will be quite happy to credit you by placing your name next to the image.

    Please could you assist?

    Thanks in anticipation.

    Kind regards,
    Melissa Schafers
    30 Degrees South Publishers

  4. Hi Melissa

    I tried sending an email to your office using the details I found on the website. If it doesn't reach you, and you are still interested in usng the photograph, then please let me know how I can contact you to work out the details and send you the original image.


  5. Hi Henry. Would you allow me to use the photo of the Large Grey Mongoose? I would credit your name next to the photo

  6. Hi Mitchbwilder
    I'm glad you like the image :)
    I guess it depends on how you want to use the picture. The content on the site is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0) http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/ . If you want to use the image outside this license agreement then we can discuss it in more detail if you provide me with your contact details.

  7. Hi Henry
    I live in Eastern Freestate near Kestell and Harrismith and have spotted a mongoose similar to this one. Same body length but it might be a darker shade of gray and the same black fluffy tail. I have seen it twice now crossing the road near my farm during day. Next to the road is a swampy area and it seems to live in the swamp. When i look at their distribution it does not show that they naturally occur in our area. Please comment.


    Willie de Waal

    1. Hi Willie

      Sorry for the late response, but for some reason your post was marked as spam, and I only noticed it now.

      I think it is safe to assume that you have seen a Large Grey Mongoose (based on your description, the habitat and the fact that you have seen it during daytime, twice).

      In general mammal distribution maps are just a guideline, and some variation is common, especially along the boundaries. Looking at the map of the Large Grey Mongoose in my edition of "Veldgids tot Soogdiere van Suider-Afrika" I see that the mongoose can be found along the entire east coast of South Africa, but the range also extends inland towards Lesotho. It is likely that it has been present in the Harrismith area for a while and just not officially noticed or recorded. They are usually not locally common and can be easily missed, even when they occur in the area. (I see a lot of variation in the distribution maps for this species from different sources.)

      Another possibility might be that recent habitat changes (maybe an increase in farm dams or vegetation along streams) allowed it to extend it's range slightly more inland than before.

      I hope this helps and thanks for sharing the interesting observation.

  8. Thanks for your blog!

    I spotted one of these on the road to Mcgregor (Western Cape) yesterday (mid September). I travel extensively on our local roads but had never seen one.

    The one I saw was huge: wider than my VW Polo from head to tail. Its odd silhouette crossing the road was so perplexing I lost all presence of mind to stop and try photograph it. It was like nothing I'd ever seen before!
    Once you know to look out for the characteristic tuft at the end of its tail its a dead give away.

    The smaller grey mongoose has a far lighter step: it sort of just scuttles across the road barely touching the ground. This little guy has a bit of a swagger to his gait and plods along more. If I remember correctly its paws are also much larger.

    Thanks so much for this pic. It helped me to finally identify the mysterious creature!

  9. Hi all, I just saw a huge pair dash across a road going towards Yellowsands nature reserve in the Eastern Cape SA.... Thank goodness I was going slowly & no other hasty people on the road 10th Sept 2020 about 10am
    So blessed so exciting viva Africa

  10. Hi there. Thanks for publishing this page - it's more useful than any of the other pages that pops up first when searching for this mongoose.
    I spotted one of these crossing our farm road today, 10/03/2023, (hence the reason for me looking it up on Google), just outside of Cannon Rocks in the Eastern Cape. Spectacular specimen indeed! I never knew about these before, and wanted to find out about it seeing as it's much bigger than our other species of mongoose around here, and then that tail..

  11. I was lucky enough to see a large gret mongoose crossing the road as i drove towards Stellenbosch. Its body was ar least 1.0m long with another 500mm of tail. Quite an impressive site as it scurried across the road.

  12. Just seen 2, one larger and one smaller. KZN Midlands. Lovely to see.

  13. I have seen them on either side of Barrydale....crossing the road. They were definitely bigger than the small grey mongoose and if course have the black tip on tail. I thought them to be farrier aswell.
    I recently captured to in bush cam. But they appear I matures .
    Darker in the face ....with black tip at present