Mystery HOOFED MAMMAL of East Africa.
Physical description: Small, robust, giraffelike
animal. Ears short and small. Maned neck
longer than an okapi’s but shorter than a giraffe’s.
Significant sighting: A giraffelike animal is depicted
in a bas-relief in the Apadana Palace of
King Darius of Persia, erected around 500 B.C.
in the city of Persepolis (Takht-e Jamsı-d, near
Marv Dasht, Iran). The carving is on the side of
the eastern staircase. It shows an animal led on
a tether by a delegation of Ethiopians paying
tribute to the Persian king.
(1) A Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis). The
tail is right, and the horns are in the correct
position, though they are short and pointed.
In profile, the face is like a giraffe’s.
However, the body is too heavy, the limbs
and neck are too short, the toes are too
large, and the ears are small and short. The
sculptor might never have seen a giraffe and
perhaps was improvising; there was also a
limited amount of space on the staircase to
portray a long neck.
(2) An Okapi (Okapia johnstoni ) was
suggested by B. Patterson in 1953, though
this elusive creature is extremely difficult to
transport and maintain in captivity. Also,
the neck is too long proportionately for an
(3) A Nilgai (Boselaphus tragocamelus), an
Indian antelope, matches many features
(horns, ears, mane, tail) of the bas-relief.
Raul Valdez and Robert Tuck suggest that
the African delegates purchased a local
Asian animal for tribute. Gunther Sehm
notes that nilgai bones are known from Late
Pleistocene middens in Jordan and that the
Ethiopian delegation might actually have
come from the Red Sea coast of Arabia,
where the animals could have persisted until
2,500 years ago.
(4) A surviving Palaeotragus, a genus of
okapi-like giraffids that lived in Turkey in
the Late Miocene, seven million years ago,
suggested by Nikos Solunias.