Olive Baboon

Papio anubis

Last updated: January 29, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© iStock.com/neil bowman

Olive baboons will sometimes form strong friendships with each other


Olive Baboon Scientific Classification

Scientific Name
Papio anubis

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Olive Baboon Conservation Status

Olive Baboon Locations

Olive Baboon Locations

Olive Baboon Facts

Rodents, birds, insects, fruits, roots, seeds, leaves, bark, flowers, and more
Name Of Young
Fun Fact
Olive baboons will sometimes form strong friendships with each other
Biggest Threat
Hunting and habitat loss
Most Distinctive Feature
The long canines on the male
Other Name(s)
Anubis baboon
Gestation Period
180 days
Litter Size
Savannahs, grasslands, deserts, and rainforests
Leopards, crocodiles, raptors, hyenas, wild dogs, and chimpanzees
Common Name
Olive Baboon
Number Of Species
Central Africa

Olive Baboon Physical Characteristics

  • Grey
  • Grey-Brown
Skin Type
25 years
30-55 pounds
two feet
19-30 inches
Age of Sexual Maturity
25 years

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“The olive baboon forms one of the most complex social structures in the animal kingdom.”

This baboon is a type of old-world monkey (a monkey species from the Eastern Hemisphere) that roams across various habitats of Africa. They have numerous adaptations to help them survive and thrive in different environmental conditions. In this article, you will learn some interesting facts about the physical and behavioral characteristics, including reproduction, lifespan, and identification, of the olive baboon.

5 Incredible Olive Baboon Facts!

  • The olive baboon has the ability to mate and produce viable offspring with the yellow baboon and sometimes even the Guinea baboon.
  • One of the baboon’s most important adaptations is the ability to extract nutrients from just about any source. This helps the baboon survive even in dry climates.
  • A group of 60 olive baboons escaped from a Spanish safari park in 1972 and established a free population. They were eventually recaptured and then sent to various zoos.
  • Baboons have cheek pouches to store food for later.
  • Olive baboons apparently play an important ecological role by dispersing undigested seeds throughout the environment.

Scientific Name

The scientific name of the olive baboon is Papio anubis. This name is derived from the Egyptian god Anubis, whose dog head resembles the muzzle of the baboon. The species is closely related to the yellow baboon, Kinda baboon, chacma baboon, Guinea baboon, and hamadryas baboon within the genus of Papio. The scientific name Papio appears to have the same origin as the name baboon (which roughly means lips or muzzle).


The olive baboon is a large monkey species, measuring up to three feet long, that generally moves around on all four legs. Some of its physical characteristics include a long tail, a long, protruding muzzle, forward-facing nostrils, deep-set eyes, a flat top head, and sharp claws. Most of the body, except for the bare face and rump, is covered in olive-gray or brown fur. These colors are produced by alternating pairs of black and dark yellow rings on each of the hairs.

There is also a strong element of sexual dimorphism in this species (meaning the two sexes look radically different from each other). Males are much larger on average than females. They also possess a large shaggy mane and longer canine teeth. This should help with identification between the sexes.

Olive baboons have eyes that are deep-set under their flat top head.



As a primate, the olive baboon has one of the most complicated social systems in the entire animal kingdom. The social structure, also known as the troop, consists of several males and females living together at once. Featuring up to 150 members, troops are absolutely vital for the survival of the baboon, because members travel, forage, groom, sleep together, and protect each other from dangerous predators. The troop is composed of separate male and female dominance hierarchies based on strength and seniority. Higher ranked members will have access to more food and mates. However, these hierarchies may change frequently, and relationships and friendships can be established between members of different ranks.

Males tend to leave the troops of their births upon reaching maturity (and may continue to switch troops every few years as needed), whereas females tend to remain with the same troop for their entire lives. This enables the females to form lifelong associations with each other to aid with grooming and foraging, even though friendships are always superseded by the allegiance to family and kin members.

Other important social adaptations of the troop are the male and female friendships. Females will help males integrate into the group (and sometimes even mate with them, but this isn’t guaranteed). In turn, males will protect their female friends and sometimes even “babysit” their infant while she forages. Her friend will even help her fend off unwanted advances from other males.

Most social interactions, including mating opportunities, occur within the troop than between them. Troops tend to have their own territories and stay away from each other. While interactions between different troops can sometimes be quite friendly and genial, they do compete against each other for resources. Violence is fortunately rare.

As you might expect, baboons exhibit incredibly complex behaviors to communicate with each other. For instance, a more dominant baboon may use his/her stare to threaten someone else without resorting to violence or aggression. Yawning or tooth display may be a show of power as well. Teeth chattering and lip-smacking are performed by dominant members to reassure other members of the troops, whereas rapid glances are done to reduce tension. Baboons will also crouch or keep their tail erect to show their submissiveness.

Olive baboons can make a number of distinct vocalizations to convey their moods. A two-phase barking call is often directed toward predators or other males to warn them away, whereas a separate shrill barking call indicates the presence of a predator nearby. Grunting and roaring are also made during fights to appear intimidating. Screeching sounds convey strong emotional reactions. A yakking call is made to defuse tension while it retreats from a threatening situation.

Olive baboons spend most of the time on the ground, but they are capable of climbing trees in order to provide a lookout or escape against predators. Their anatomy is incredibly versatile and adapted for both walking and climbing. Baboons are active during the day and spend about 60% of their time foraging. The rest of the day is spent on grooming and building relationships with each other.

What is the Relationship Between an Olive Baboon and African Bush Elephant?

In the east African country of Eritrea, the olive baboon and African bush elephant have formed a symbiotic relationship with each other. The baboons are free to use the elephant’s watering hole, and in return, they essentially provide a lookout service by emitting a loud call when potential predators are nearby. In this manner, the olive baboon and African bush elephant are mutually beneficial to each other.


The olive baboon can be found in savannah, grasslands, deserts, and rainforests throughout central sub-Saharan Africa, from the Atlantic coast to the horn of Africa, which encompasses some 25 countries in total. There are also isolated populations within the Saharan Desert. Unlike most monkey species, baboons live primarily on the ground, but they are capable climbers as well.

Predators and Threats

Olive baboons face a few threats from humans. They are sometimes shot, trapped, and poisoned in retaliation for consuming crops or livestock. They are also at risk of habitat loss from encroaching farms. However, this has not appeared to impact their population seriously enough to warrant a downgrade in their conservation status. Local farmers can sometimes deter baboons with domestic dogs and other methods.

What Eats the Olive Baboon?

Baboons of all ages are in constant danger of falling victim to crocodiles, leopards, wild dogs, and hyenas. Chimpanzees and raptors will attack baby baboons as well. The safety of the group does provide some protection against predators.

What does the Olive Baboon Eat?

The diet of the olive baboon consists of many different foods, including rodents, birds, insects, fruits, roots, seeds, leaves, bark, flowers, fungi, and more. The baboons can dig through the dirt with their sharp claws to extract food sources. It can also kill animals as large as young antelope and farm animals. The ability to consume grasses for long periods of time enables them to exploit dry locations. They are also quite good at removing the sharp needles from prickly pears.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

The olive baboon follows a promiscuous mating strategy. While larger, stronger, and younger males tend to dominate access to mates, two males will sometimes form alliances with each other (especially between older males who are well-acquainted) to wrest away access from a third more dominant male. Sometimes a softer approach is required, however. Males will attempt to forge a bond with females by grooming, sharing food, and defending her from other baboons. Females appear to show a preference for mating with male friends.

Mating can occur at any time throughout the year. Healthy females who have the most access to food (this is usually the highest ranked females) can breed annually; otherwise, they will breed once every 12 to 34 months. Because lactation causes a significant fall in the mother’s weight, it requires a significant amount of time to recover from. After mating, the female will give birth to a single offspring about half a year later.

Born with black coat colors and pink skin, the baby is completely dependent on the mother. She provides much of the nursing, grooming, and playtime, whereas the father plays a minimal role in parental duties. The fur will grow the olive gray colors at around the first year of age, but it takes more than 400 days before the baby is completely weaned off its mother’s milk and begins eating solid food.

The sexual maturity of the baboon is heavily dependent on its nutritional intake. If well-fed, it can reach full sexual maturity in as little as five or six years. Males will undergo several important changes in physical characteristics, including muscle growth, deeper voices, the eruption of the teeth, and the development of the mane. Before that point, identification of the sexes is very difficult. The lifespan of this species has never been accurately recorded, but based on observation of closely related baboons, it can probably live an average of 25 years.


The olive baboon is considered to be a species of least concern by the IUCN Red List. Scientists do not have enough facts about their populations to determine or estimate their numbers.

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AZ Animals is a growing team of animals experts, researchers, farmers, conservationists, writers, editors, and -- of course -- pet owners who have come together to help you better understand the animal kingdom and how we interact.

Olive Baboon FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Is the olive baboon carnivorous, herbivorous, or omnivorous?

The olive baboon is an omnivorous species.

Is the olive baboon endangered?

No, it is not currently threatened in any way.

What does the olive baboon do?

The baboon spends most of the day foraging, grooming, and sleeping. It can sometimes walk significant distances to reach food sources.

Is an olive baboon a monkey?

Yes, baboon is type of old world monkey. Some of its close relatives include macaques, mandrills, langurs, snub-nosed monkeys, and other old world monkey species.

Are olive baboons polygamous?

Olive baboons tend to be promiscuous. While there is competition between males for access to mates, females can also mate with many different males over her lifetime (sometimes she can maintain multiple relationships at once).

Are yellow and olive baboons the same species?

They are considered to be different species, but they do have the ability to mate with each other and produce viable offspring together. This is known as hybridization.

How long do olive baboons live?

The baboon’s lifespan is probably somewhere around 25 years on average.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

  1. Animal Diversity Web, Available here: https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Papio_anubis/

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