Declining entrepreneurship as indicated by low total early-stage entrepreneurial activity (TEA) and high business failure is unacceptable in any economy. This predicament is indicative of South Africa’s business environment as well as the entrepreneurial disposition of firms operating within it. However, the factors precipitating entrepreneurial behaviour among small firms are yet to be fully comprehended and the environment as a motivation for entrepreneurship among these firms is yet to be examined thoroughly. Furthermore, research focus on the antecedents of entrepreneurial orientation (EO) is limited, even as EO has been considered as an aggregated construct repeatedly with inadequate attention directed at its independent constituents. In response to these concerns, this study investigates the relationships between environmental hostility (EH) and the individual components of EO among small businesses in South Africa. Using a quantitative methodological approach, the study conducts a survey, and analyses data obtained through random sampling. Through exploratory factor analysis (EFA) and partial least square structural equation modelling (PLS-SEM), it is discovered that only four components of EO are statistically recognisable, contrary to five as widely acknowledged in literature. Positive associations were also revealed between EH and each of these dimensions to varying degrees. These findings underline the necessity for entrepreneurial action along the lines of risk-taking, proactive-innovativeness, competitive aggressiveness and autonomy among small businesses in South Africa, given the hostile environment of her small business sector.