Zebras, Horses And Okapis

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Pablo Edronkin

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Zebras are rather bizarre animals; they belong to the same genus as horses, albeit there are various different species of zebras which are as distant between them in evolutionary terms as they are from the modern horse.

And there is even an animal that people believe that it is a zebra on first sight, but it isn't: this is the Okapi, a close relative of the giraffe. Okapis live only in the rainforest of Congo, in Africa, an look more or less like the cross of an ass or mule with a zebra. The body and skin colour is that of an ass, but their legs are coloured in stripes exactly like those found in the case of zebras.

For a biologist or naturalist, finding a new species is like winning the jackpot, and that was the case of Harry Johnston, the governor of Uganda between 1881 and 1883. He received word from the natives that there was an animal like that, which they called Okapi; they described it as something that has a part of an ass and part of a zebra.

After some time, the Europeans saw their first okapi, and the animal was classified as an equid, a close relative of the horse, and christened 'Equus johnstoni .' However, after a couple of years, the same biologist that made the classification found out that the animal, in fact, was not a relative of horses but giraffes, and renamed it 'Okapia johnstoni.'

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