Interesting facts about rhesus macaques

rhesus macaques

The rhesus macaque is a species of Old World monkey.

It is native to South, Central, and Southeast Asia .

Rhesus macaques are found in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand, Afghanistan, Vietnam, southern China, and some neighboring areas.

This species has the widest geographic range of all non-human primates, occupying a great diversity of altitudes (up to 2,500 meters / 8,200 feet) and a great variety of habitats, from grasslands to arid and forested areas, but also close to human settlements.


Rhesus macaques are able to aclimate to a variety of climatic extremes, from the hot, dry temperatures found in deserts, to cold winter temperatures which fall to well below the freezing point.

The lifespan of a rhesus macaque is between 25 and 30 years.

The rhesus macaque is the best-known species of macaque and measures from 47 to 64 cm (19 to 25 in) long, excluding the furry 20 to 30 cm (8 to 12 in) tail. Females average about 8.5 kg (19 oz) and males 11 kg (24 oz).


These smallish monkeys are brown or grey in color and have a pink face, which is bereft of fur.

Rhesus macaques are diurnal animals, and both arboreal and terrestrial. They also enjoy being in water and are good swimmers.

They are mostly herbivorous, feeding mainly on fruit, but also eating seeds, roots, buds, bark, and cereals. They have also been observed eating termites, grasshoppers, ants, and beetles.

Rhesus macaques have specialized pouch-like cheeks, allowing them to temporarily hoard their food.

rhesus macaque

They live in groups called troops. These troops comprise a mixture of 20 to 200 males and females.

Rhesus macaques interact using a variety of facial expressions, vocalizations, body postures, and gestures. Perhaps the most common facial expression the macaque makes is the “silent bared teeth” face. This is made between individuals of different social ranks, with the lower-ranking one giving the expression to its superior.

Although rhesus macaques live in groups, they are not territorial. Each group of individuals usually has its own sleeping space, but the territories of neighboring groups may overlap considerably. Confrontations between groups are rare.


The breeding season varies widely amongst populations. The gestation period is around 165 days, and almost all pregnancies results in birth of a single young. Newborn macaques weigh between 400 and 500 g (14 and 17.5 oz). They nurse from their mother for about 1 year.

Although young macaques typically cling to their mother’s ventrum for the first few weeks of life, as their ability to keep themselves upright improves, they ride upon the mother’s back. While the majority of parental care is the responsibility of the mother, rhesus infants are also handled by close female relatives and protected by adult males.

rhesus macaques mother and young

The rhesus macaque has been an important experimental animal for medical and psychological research. The determination of the red blood cell Rh factor in human blood involves reaction with the blood of this monkey, and a rhesus was the first monkey to be rocketed into the stratosphere.

Because the rhesus macaque is held sacred in some parts of India and is the object of tolerant affection on the part of many Brahmans, it is especially common around temples.


Towards the end of March 2018, it was reported that a rhesus macaque had entered a house in the village of Talabasta, Indian state of Odisha, and kidnapped a baby. The baby was later found dead in a well.

In several experiments giving mirrors to rhesus macaque, they looked into the mirrors and groomed themselves, as well as flexed various muscle groups. This behaviour indicates that they recognised and were aware of themselves.

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