Barbary Macaque (Macaca sylvanus)

This species has cheek pouches to carry food in while it forages. This species has a stub for a tail, misleading some to think they are apes. The pelage color ranges from grayish-brown to brownish-gray.

The barbary macaque is found in the countries of Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, and in Gibraltar. This species is found in montane oak and cedar forests in Northern Africa.
Barbary Macaque; photo copyright Peter Strong

The barbary macaque has a diet of tubers, rhizomes, flowers, fruit, leaves, seeds, and invertebrates. During the winter when food is scarce the barbary macaque forages for bark and evergreen needles. In its range in Algeria caterpillars are an important part of the diet in autumn and acorns become an important part of the diet in spring. Group sizes range from 15 to 60 individuals. This is a diurnal species.

The barbary macaque is a quadrupedal species (Fleagle, 1988).

Barbary Macaques; photo copyright Peter Strong SOCIAL BEHAVIOR:
The barbary macaque has a multimale-multifemale social system, although unimale groups can occur. This species has a promiscuous mating system. Females remain in their natal group with the onset of maturity, but males will disperse shortly before adolescence. There is a hierarchical system amongst group members based upon the matriline. Males extensively take part in the caring of young which is unique among the macaques. Males will also care for young that are not their own. When the infants are able to move independently, the males will interact with them mostly carrying them around and grooming them (Taub, 1978; 1984). Males generally direct their caretaking towards one individual infant (MacRoberts, 1970; Taub, 1984). Mostly subadult males become caretakers, and because females mate with most of the males in the group (Taub, 1980) there is no reason to suspect paternity as why males take care of infants (Taub, 1984).

scream calls: This call is given by the barbary macaque when they are approached by a non-group conspecific.


fear grimace: The lips are retracted so that the teeth are shown; the teeth are clenched together (Estes, 1991). This display functions as an appeasement signal to reduce aggression in aggressive encounters (Estes, 1991).

staring with open mouth: This is the stare accompanied by the mouth being open but the teeth are covered (Estes, 1991). This is a threat expression (Estes, 1991).

lipsmacking: This is when the lips are protruded, then smacked together repeatedly. For the barbary macaque this display is an affiliative signal.


The barbary macaque gives birth to a single offspring. During estrus the perineum of the female becomes taut and can sometimes break.

presenting: This behavior is preformed by the female to elicit copulation from the male; this pattern tells the male that she is ready for copulation (Estes, 1991).
Barbary Macaque; photo copyright Peter Strong

Burton, F. 1995. The Multimedia Guide to the Non-human Primates. Prentice-Hall Canada Inc.

Estes, R.D. 1991. The Behavior Guide to African Mammals. University of California Press.

Fleagle, J. G. 1988. Primate Adaptation and Evolution. Academic Press.

MacRoberts, M.H. 1970. The Social Organization of Barbary Apes (Macaca sylvanus) on Gibraltar. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Vol. 33, 83-100.

Taub, D.M. 1978. Aspects of the Biology of the Wild Barbary Macaque (Primates, Cercopithecinae, Macaca sylvanus L. 1758): Biogeography, the Mating System, and Male-infant Associations. Ph.D. dissertation, University of California-Davis.

Taub, D.M. 1980. Female Choice and Mating Strategies among Wild Barbary Macaques (Macaca sylvanus L.). In The Macaques: Studies in Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution, ed. D.G. Lindburg. Van Nostrand Reinhold.

Taub, D.M. 1984. Male Caretaking Behavior among Wild Barbary Macaques (Macaca sylvanus). In Primate Paternalism, ed. D.M. Taub. Van Nostrand Reinhold.

Last Updated: October 9, 2003.
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