Coney — (Heb. shaphan; i.e., “the hider”), an animal which inhabits the mountain gorges and the rocky districts of Arabia Petraea and the Holy Land. “The conies are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks” (Prov. 30:26; Ps. 104:18). They are gregarious, and “exceeding wise” (Prov. 30:24), and are described as chewing the cud (Lev. 11:5; Deut. 14:7).
The animal intended by this name is known among naturalists as the Hyrax Syriacus. It is neither a ruminant nor a rodent, but is regarded as akin to the rhinoceros. When it is said to “chew the cud,” the Hebrew word so used does not necessarily imply the possession of a ruminant stomach. “The lawgiver speaks according to appearances; and no one can watch the constant motion of the little creature’s jaws, as it sits continually working its teeth, without recognizing the naturalness of the expression” (Tristram, Natural History of the Bible). It is about the size and color of a rabbit, though clumsier in structure, and without a tail. Its feet are not formed for digging, and therefore it has its home not in burrows but in the clefts of the rocks. “Coney” is an obsolete English word for “rabbit.”