Natural Histories

photograph of a Sunda Pangolin

Rhesus Macaque

Macaca mulatta


Rhesus monkeys are a small monkey with grizzled-brown fur on their dorsal side and slightly lighter fur on the ventral side. Hair of the head tends to be shorter and there is no fur on the face and buttocks, which are both reddish in color. This species varies in length between 45 and 64 cm, an additional 19-32 cm given for total tail length. Males (6.5-12 kg) tend to be heavier than females (5.5 kg).


Rhesus monkeys can be found in western Afghanistan, through India to northern Thailand. Populations of this species were abundant in southern China and Tibet but humans have caused drastic population declines over the past 60 years. This species can survive in a variety of habitats due to its great adaptability. Rhesus monkeys can be found living in flatlands and even in the Himalayas at elevations up to 3,000 m above sea level. Rhesus monkeys are also capable of adapting to extreme climatic conditions from dry and hot temperatures of deserts, to winter temperatures below freezing. This species has also become commonly found living in urban areas alongside humans. Dense populations can be found in urban northern India.

Feeding Behavior and Diet

Rhesus monkeys are omnivorous, consuming both plant and animal matter, but their diet changes based on location and season. Roots, herbs, fruits, insects, crops, and small animals are commonly consumed. Populations of mountain forests in northern Pakistan consume mostly clovers during the summer and lower nutritional foods with higher fiber, such as pine needles and oak leaves, in the winter.


This mammalian species is highly promiscuous, mating with multiple partners. Breeding seasons vary among populations, areas with cold winters typically mate in the fall and young are born in the spring while populations where seasons are not as extreme have less defined mating seasons. Females have a 29 day reproductive cycle, they are only receptive for 8-11 days during the cycle. Males attract females by their dominance status within the social group or by showing friendly gestures such as grooming and carrying infants. Rhesus monkeys have a 165 day gestation period before a single young is born. Young cling to their mother’s side for the first few weeks until they are strong enough to stay upright and ride upon their mother’s back. Young nurse for the first year of life. Females reach sexual maturity at 2.5-3 years while males reach maturity at 4.5-7 years.

Months and Times of Activity

This species is highly active and loud. The curiosity of the rhesus monkey usually causes more diurnal activities in areas populated by humans.

Special Features, Stories, Relationships

•    Rhesus monkeys are good swimmers and enjoy being in the water

.•    This species lives in mixed groups with multiple males and females of up to 200 individuals. Dominance hierarchies are present in both male and females within these groups.

•    To read legends featuring this animal go to;

•    Children’s book featuring this animal: Little Monkey Says Good Night by Ann Whitford Paul


Seinfeld, J. 2000. "Macaca mulatta" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed November 04, 2014 at