Baboon Matters Trust
About Baboons in South Africa
Baboon Matters Trust

Baboons through the Ages

Baboons through the Ages

15 million years ago:

Fossils dating back to 15 million years ago were found in Africa in 1997. These were fossils of Old World Monkeys, the taxonomy category that baboons fall into.

4 million years ago:

Baboons in the Papio genus, that we see today, originated in Southern Africa around 4 million years ago and then spread to most of sub-Saharan Africa.

2 million years ago:

Ancient Egyptians worshipped Hamadryas baboons, who they thought represented Thoth, the god of wisdom. In addition to being worshipped in temples, baboons appear in many hieroglyphics with what appear to be leads around their necks – it is thought that many households kept baboons as pets.

Baboons featured regularly in early Bushman rock art, and were believed to be sacred and share similar powers to shamans.

The last few hundred years in South Africa:

The earliest written record of baboon encounters by European explorers dates back to 1591, and in 1652 Jan van Riebeeck wrote “Again saw many baboons feeding at the foot of the Lion Mountain, very big and horrible to look at”.

Records also document the first raids by baboons, towards the end of the 18th century – it’s no surprise that these early raids coincided with the first permanent farms in the Cape Colony, when our wily primate cousins learnt that humans equal easy food. They’ve been refining their skills ever since.

Read the amazing stories of two of South Africa’s most famous baboons


Jenni Trethowan
084 413 9482




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