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Giraffes

( Originally Published 1936 )

While the whales and elephants are the bulkiest, the Giraffes are the tallest of all known animals, the largest speciments being at least twenty feet high. They have two short permanent horns on the head, covered with skin and tufted with hair, in front of which is a short third protuberance, and occasionally there are two more at the side of the head, so that the animals may be said to have either three or five horns. There are two hoofs only on each foot, there being no trace of dewclaws. The neck, though very long, contains only seven vertebrae, as in the great majority of mammals; the legs are very long, and the back slopes rapidly toward the tail, which is long and bushy at the end. On the back is a short mane. The great height of the animal enables it to browse on leaves of trees, which form its principal food, and when drinking, it is forced to spread its fore-legs wide apart in order to reach the water with its lips. It is, however, able to do without water for long periods. The eye of the Giraffe is large, full, dark brown in colour, and with heavy lashes, and is singularly gentle in expression. These animals inhabit chiefly the open plains of Central, Eastern, and Southern Africa, and are capable of great speed, although they ordinarily move with a shambling trot. All the Giraffes are of a lighter or darker fawn-colour, with large, reddish-brown blotches in varying proportions, the front and under surface of the body and the lower part of the legs being more or less white. There are different races of Giraffes found in Africa, which vary considerably in colour, the development of the horns, and so on, but naturalists are not agreed as to whether they should be regarded as.. species or varieties. The name Camelopardalis dates from classical times, the form and colour of the animals suggesting a resemblance to both the camel and the leopard. They were unknown to Europeans during the Middle Ages, and were only brought under their notice again in the course of the eighteenth century. At the present time, however, Giraffes are fairly common in zoological gardens. They are absolutely silent animals, never having been known to utter a sound of any nature.

Giraffe (Camelopardalis giraffa)

The species figured is the South African Giraffe, which is one of the best-known forms, though those obtained by the Romans probably came from the Sudan. See Plate 23, Fig. 109. The Giraffe is not now known in Africa north of the Sahara, nor did it probably occur in that part of the continent as late as classical times.

Okapi (Okapia Johnstoni)

The Okapi is a rare and still little known animal, which inhabits the depths of the Congo Forest, and is very shy and difficult to stalk. It was not until 1901 that specimens of the hide, and afterwards the skin of an immature specimen and two skulls, were obtained by Sir Harry Johnston, and sent over to England. Since then other specimens have been obtained, but it is still a great rarity in museums, and there are no living examples in captivity. It is allied to the giraffe, but the size is smaller (an adult would probably attain a height of six or seven feet), and the neck and legs are much stouter and thicker, and the back less sloping, giving the animal more resemblance to a large antelope than to a giraffe. The body is dark reddish-brown, the middle of the sides of the head, the legs, and rump being white. The hindquarters are banded with black, like a zebra, and there is a broad, black band above each hoof, down to which runs a perpendicular black band on the front legs. The adult male possesses two short, curved horns just above the eyes. These are covered with skin till full grown, when the bare tips project. See Plate 23, Fig. 107.

This animal is believed to be most nearly allied to some extinct fossil forms found in Greece and India.



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