Baboons are primates comprising the genus Papio, one of the 23 genera of Old World monkeys. There are six species of baboon: the hamadryas baboon, the Guinea baboon, the olive baboon, the yellow baboon, the Kinda baboon and the chacma baboon. Each species is native to one of six areas of Africa and the hamadryas baboon is also native to part of the Arabian Peninsula. Baboons are among the largest non-hominoid primates and have existed for at least two million years.
Baboons vary in size and weight depending on the species. The smallest, the Kinda baboon, is 50 cm (20 in) in length and weighs only 14 kg (31 lb), while the largest, the chacma baboon, is up to 120 cm (47 in) in length and weighs 40 kg (88 lb). All baboons have long, dog-like muzzles, heavy, powerful jaws with sharp canine teeth, close-set eyes, thick fur except on their muzzles, short tails, and nerveless, hairless pads of skin on their protruding buttocks called ischial callosities that provide for sitting comfort. Male hamadryas baboons have large white manes. Baboons exhibit sexual dimorphism in size, colour and/or canine teeth development.
Baboons are diurnal and terrestrial, but sleep in trees, or on high cliffs or rocks at night, away from predators. They are found in open savannas and woodlands across Africa. They are omnivorous: common sources of food are grasses, seeds, roots, leaves, bark, various fruits, insects, fish, shellfish, rodents, birds, vervet monkeys and small antelopes. Their principal predators are Nile crocodiles, leopards, lions and hyenas. Most baboons live in hierarchical troops containing harems. Baboons can determine from vocal exchanges what the dominance relations are between individuals.
In general, each male can mate with any female; the mating order among the males depends partly on their social rank. Females typically give birth after a six-month gestation, usually to one infant. The females tend to be the primary caretaker of the young, although several females may share the duties for all of their offspring. Offspring are weaned after about a year. They reach sexual maturity around five to eight years. Males leave their birth group, usually before they reach sexual maturity, whereas most females stay in the same group for their lives. Baboons in captivity live up to 45 years, while in the wild they average between 20 to 30 years.
Baboons are terrestrial (ground dwelling) and are found in open savannah, open woodland and hills across Africa. They are omnivorous, highly opportunistic feeders and will eat virtually anything, including grasses, roots, seeds, leaves, bark, fruits, fungus, insects, spiders, worms, fish, shellfish, rodents, birds, vervet monkeys, and small antelopes. They are foragers and are active at irregular times throughout the day and night. They often raid human dwellings, and in South Africa they break into homes and cars in search of food. Baboons will also raid farms, eating crops and preying on sheep, goats and poultry.