Even the more erudite of my friends shake their heads when asked about the Okapi. “Never heard of it” or “it can’t be important,” they usually say. But what a wondrous beast it is. Could you imagine purple as a color for any animal? The Okapi is deep purple in color and has zebra stripes to boot! But it isn’t a zebra. We know that from its hooves which are double toed as opposed to the single hoof of the equine family. So what are they? Just imagine yourself a short 80 years ago exploring the bush of Zaire—then the Belgian Congo—when Sir H.H. Johnston, governor of Uganda, learned of this big animal which had never before been described. Because of its size and its stripes it was, at least at first, considered a forest zebra. When Johnston presented Sclater (the curator of the Capetown Museum and authority on African fauna) with two belts prepared from the hide of an Okapi, which he had obtained from natives, scientific curiosity was aroused. The Okapi is now known to weigh 400 pounds. So how could it ever be overlooked for all those years? Early observers probably considered it to be some type of zebra hybrid because of its markings. But it is a “good species,” with no known immediate relatives.
KeywordsRectal Prolapse Early Observer Horse Breeder Zebra Stripe Scientific Curiosity
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