The Camel, The Hare, and The Hyrax


Author: Rabbi Natan Slifkin

General Information

“Every animal that has hooves that are fully split and brings up the cud, you shall eat. However, this you shall not eat…the camel, the hare, and the hyrax, for they bring up the cud, but they do not have split hooves; therefore they are unclean to you.” (Deuteronomy 14:6-7)

For more than a century, the Torah’s list of animals with one kosher sign has been a source of controversy. This obscure topic is used both by those seeking to demonstrate the Torah’s scientific knowledge and also by those seeking to challenge it. Do we know the correct identities of these animals? Do they indeed chew the cud and lack split hooves? Does the Torah claim them to be the only such animals? And are there any others? This groundbreaking work draws upon a wealth of Torah literature and the latest zoological research to present a detailed and comprehensive study of this difficult topic.

“Rambam wrote that difficult and deep passages of the Talmud cannot be addressed by enthusiasm alone. We do a great injustice to the Torah and the Sages by providing explanations that don’t really hold water. Sensitive areas of the Torah must be approached with hard work, thorough research, rigorous analysis, and intellectual honesty. In this authoritative book, Rabbi Slifkin once again applies these qualities, and this is why it succeeds.” — Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, Author, Maharal: Be’er HaGolah (ArtScroll)

Reader Feedback

“Dear Rabbi Slifkin, I am writing to you to say thank you. Being that I am trying to be a “Baal Tshuva,” I have always had an inquisitive mind. As my Torah Learning grew, however, so did my doubts and questions. I have always considered the most difficult of these questions the questions regarding the camel, the hare, the hyrax, and the pig (from the Torah and Talmud), and other animal-related questions from the Talmud because these were just some of few questions regarding Torah that were outwardly verifiable (i.e. statements whose validity could be verified outside the realm of Torah).
To say the least, I was always disapointed with the answers I got for these questions. The Rabbis I have asked always seemed to give me a run-around answer or said that the shafan and arnevet were extinct. My research showed me otherwise, so I was left with a bitter taste in my mouth, doubting my new way of life. Reading two of your works, The Camel, The Hare, and The Hyrax and Mysterious Creatures, I found your research to be exhaustive, honest, and refreshing. I feel that addressing such issues head on, and taking the time to do extensive and honest research is the best and only approach to get a true answer to these questions. Seeing an Orthodox Rabbi willing to address these questions in the detailed manner which I am used to (being that I am an engineer), rather than an off-the-cuff answer, has given me new found inspiration in my relatively new Torah-Observant way of life. I cannot praise you enough for your work, as I have found it to be a major reason I have decided to continue this way of life. Thank you so much, and hatzlacha raba to you! Sincerely, Adir Levy, Los Angeles, CA” Letter received April 27, 2004
“Dear Rabbi Slifkin, It’s been a while now since I have completed “The Camel, The Hare & The Hyrax,” but I think of it almost every day. I think of why it took so long for someone to come out and write about this subject. There are many kinds of Jews out in the world and they have been unsuccessful in coming back to Judaism, due to certain “controversies”. The issue of the identity of the Kosher animals has for a long time been the sticking point for me, and each of the rabbis that I would talk to would always push it aside or give some apologetic answer to it mainly because they are just plain ill informed. Not you Rabbi Slifkin. Your research into the matter topped with your honesty is a breath of fresh air. Many Jews need this kind of “intellectual” look into the matter to bring us back into Judaism rather than just seeing it from a “hashkafah” point of view. I have had many doubts before, regarding this matter. But through your book I have realized that there is still hope for me. Many people fear to speak of this subject, because of what we might find out. In this book, you have shown me that we should not fear to ask questions and that sometimes admitting to not knowing something is not the same as admitting to defeat. You have shown me that an Orthodox Rabbi is not afraid to tackle this matter in an honest fashion and I am very proud of that. This book deserves to be in every serious Jewish thinker’s home. Long have people used the subject of the identity of the kosher animals as evidence that the Torah is not from God. This book gives us all the ammunition to fire back at them… to show them that they do not own a monopoly on intellectual thought… nobody does. Thank you Rabbi Slifkin for your great work on this subject. You have given me, as well as many other people, a reason why we should give Judaism another chance. Sincerely, Hanan Druker”



Full title: The Camel, The Hare, and The Hyrax – The Laws of Animals with One Kosher Sign in Light of Modern ZoologyHardcover / 234 pages


Chapter One: Hooves and Cud
Chapter Two: Is the List Claimed to be Exhaustive?
Chapter Three: Systems of Classification
Chapter Four: Camels, Llamas, and Camas
Chapter Five: Shafan and Arneves – Unknown or Extinct?
Chapter Six: Shafan – The Hyrax
Chapter Seven: Arneves – The Hare
Chapter Eight: Cecotrophy in Other Animals
Chapter Nine: The Controversial Capybara
Chapter Ten: Marsupials, Monkeys, and Merycism
Chapter Eleven: Pigs, Hippos and Peccaries
Chapter Twelve: Kosher Pigs?
Chapter Thirteen: Fins and Scales
Chapter Fourteen: The Upper Teeth Rule
Chapter Fifteen: Solutions and Conclusions

Update and Corrections

On pp. 94-95 reasons are presented as to why the hyrax is not disqualified from being the shafan as being a sheretz. To these can be added that the rabbit is the same size as a hyrax – in fact, slightly smaller—and yet since at least Talmudic times, this was widely identified as being the arneves of the Torah.


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