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. 
Cloven hooves.

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.

Possible explanations: 
(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.

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