Geoffroy's horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus clivosus)

GenusRhinolophus (1)
SizeTotal length: 7.2 - 9.7 cm (2) (3)
Tail length: 2.5 - 3.2 cm (2)
Average wingspan: 33 cm (4)
Average weight: 18 g (4)

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

Geoffroy's horseshoe bat is a medium-sized bat with soft, fluffy, greyish-white fur and some slightly brown areas around the face (5). Horseshoe bats (species in the Rhinolophidae family) are named for the horseshoe-shaped noseleaf, a fleshy structure surrounding the nose, common to many bats (6) (7). The function of the noseleaf is to focus the ultrasonic echolocation pulses that are emitted from the nose, helping the bat to locate prey (7) (8). The noseleaf of Geoffroy's horseshoe bat is made up of folds of skin which are sparsely covered with hair (5). Geoffroy's horseshoe bat has very small eyes and large, pale greyish-brown ears, which are almost the same size as the head (5). The females of this species tend to be larger and heavier than the males (4).

This species is widely distributed in northern, eastern and southern parts of Africa and in southwest Asia, including the Arabian Peninsula (1). 

Geoffroy's horseshoe bat inhabits a vast array of different environments, from savanna and woodland to deserts (1). It roosts in caves, the crevices of rocks, hollow trees, old mines, and buildings (1) (2) (9).

Geoffroy's horseshoe bat lives in groups, congregating in large colonies of around 200 or more individuals to roost (10). In the coastal Western Cape Province of South Africa, colonies containing a staggering 10,000 individuals have been recorded (7), and it may also share caves with other bat species, such as the cape horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus capensis) (7). Leaving its roost at night, Geoffroy's horseshoe bat flies low as it forages for food (10). It feeds primarily on insects, especially long-horned beetles, moths and grasshoppers (11), although it has been reported that females may have a more specialised diet of just moths and butterflies (12). Like other bats, Geoffroy's horseshoe bat uses echolocation in order to detect its prey, emitting calls in the range of 84 to 86 kilohertz (4).

In the temperate regions of its range, Geoffroy's horseshoe bat may hibernate over winter, and prepares for this period of dormancy by storing excess amounts of body fat during summer. Remarkably, this species is able reduce its heart beat to just two beats per minute when hibernating (9).

In South Africa, Geoffroy's horseshoe bat mates in the month of May; however, ovulation and fertilisation normally occurs in August. During the intervening winter season, when the bat may hibernate, the female is able to store the male’s sperm (3). In December (the summer), when there is an abundance of prey, the female gives birth to a single young (7).

Although Geoffroy's horseshoe bat is not known to be facing any major threats, and as such is not considered to be at risk of extinction, some populations are affected by indirect poisoning from the use of insecticides and pesticides, and by disturbance of their roosting sites (1). The clearance of forests, the destruction of caves, and changes in housing design all destroy potential roosting sites. In Jordan, for example, houses were once constructed using stone and mud and had areas, such as galleries or storage areas, which were suitable for roosting bats. Such houses are now being replaced by modern houses, which are less suitable (13).

Geoffroy's horseshoe bat is present in a number of protected areas (1), such as De Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa (4).  In addition, in some countries, such as Jordan, bats are protected by legislation (1). It has been recommended that the impact of insecticides on Geoffroy's horseshoe bat should be investigated, along with alternative methods of insect control (1), which would help allow humans and bats to live successfully together.

To find out about efforts to conserve bats around the world see:

Checked (24/08/10) by Dr Francis Gilbert, Associate Professor, University of Nottingham.

  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2010)
  2. Hoath, R. (2009) A Field Guide to the Mammals of Egypt. The American University in Cairo Press, Cairo, Egypt.
  3. Bernard, R.T.F. (1983) Reproduction of Rhinolophus clivosus (Microchiropetera) in Natal, South Africa. Zeitchrift fur Saugetierkunde, 48(6): 321-329.
  4. Jacobs, D.S., Barclay, R.M.R. and Walker, M.H. (2007) The allometry of echolocation call frequencies of insectivorous bats: why do some species deviate from the pattern? Oecologia, 152: 583–594.
  5. Dietz, C. (2005) Illustrated Identification Key to the Bats of Egypt. Electronic Publication, Tuebingen, Germany. Available at:
  6. Altringham, J. (1999) Bats, Biology and Behaviour. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  7. Apps, P. (2000) Smither’s Mammals of South Africa: A Field Guide. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
  8. Neuweiler, G. (2000) The Biology of Bats. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  9. Mills, G. and Hes, L. (1997) The Complete Book of Southern African Mammals. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
  10. Wassif, K. (1953) On a collection of mammals from northern Sinai. Bulletin de lInstitut du Désert d’Egypte, 3: 107-118.
  11. Feldman, R., Whitaker Jr, J.O. and Yom-Yom, Y. (2000) Dietary composition and habitat use in a desert insectivorous bat community in Israel. Acta Chiropterologica, 2: 15-22.
  12. Benda, P.,Dietz, C., Andreas, M., Hotovy, J.,  Lucan, R. K., Maltby, A., Meakin, K.,  Truscott, J. and  Vallo, P. (2008) Bats (Mammalia: Chiroptera) of the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East. Part 6. Bats of Sinai (Egypt) with some taxonomic, ecological and echolocation data on that fauna. Acta Societatis Zoologicae Bohemicae. 72: 1-103. 
  13. Amr, Z.S., Baker, M.A.A. and Qumsiyeh, M.B. (2006) Bat diversity and conservation in Jordan. Turkish Journal of Zoology, 30: 235-244.