The Animal You’ve Never Heard About


Photo by Wikipedia, Melissa Ritter and Photoshopped by Sydney Ritter

Courtesy of photo shop, junior Sydney Ritter poses with an okapi, her favorite animal. Ritter decided to write a column about this unusual creature. “You may not want to change your favorite animal to this unique one, but I hope I’ve at least broadened your horizons,” Ritter said.

Sydney Ritter, Writer / Designer

When you ask most people, “What’s your favorite animal?” You normally get cookie cutter answers like, a tiger, or a monkey, but when I say okapi, do you even know what that is?  The animal you’ve never heard about is my favorite.

An okapi is the closest living relative to the giraffe, the animal that used to be my favorite, and now is a close second. I found this animal rather recently playing with my family’s Christmas gift, Alexa. When you get a computer friend, you have to try out all her features. (Just so you know, Alexa can tell you facts about any animal, or at least all the ones I’ve tried.)  As I said, my favorite animal used to be the giraffe, so naturally, I asked Alexa for facts about giraffes. One of the many facts she gave me was that the okapi was the closest living relative to the giraffe. My brother Carson was with me because he was home for Christmas, and when we heard ‘okapi,’ we both looked at each other with a confused look.

The next question we asked her was, “What’s an okapi?”

An okapi by definition of is an African mammal closely related to and resembling the giraffe, but smaller and with a much shorter neck.

Alexa is great for explanations, but even she has limitations (an actual visual)  so we had to resort to our phones to actually see this animal. The okapi has zebra stripes going up its legs, and a horse-like body, but looking closely at the head and ears, you can tell it’s related to the giraffe. The unusual look of this animal led my brother and myself to ask questions about the okapi. Then, I looked up even more information. 

In my research, I have found giraffes and okapis are some of only a few animals who walk with both left feet moving and then both right feet moving. (Click here to see a video of this creature’s gait.)

The okapi was unknown to science until the 1800s, but even then it was only a rumored animal by explorers. The shy, unsociable mannerisms of the okapi kept the animal under wraps, or should I say more literally under the heavy forestry, which is surprising, considering the okapi is around five feet tall and weighs anywhere between 440-770 pounds. For those of you who don’t know animal sizes, that means the largest okapi is the size of a small horse.

You’re not going to see any okapi in forests in the United States, though. The natural species only lives in the Democratic Rebuplic of the Congo. There is evidence of the species living in Uganda, but they are extinct in that region now. The line has also been categorized as endangered. If you were hoping to see one in a zoo, you will unfortunately have to travel. The Amarillo Zoo does not have an okapi exhibit, but the Oklahoma City Zoo and the Dallas Zoo both have this interesting mammal. Even though you can’t see one in person easily, pictures on the internet work as well as videos. If you want to laugh, just look one up running, or watch this link.

After all these facts, you may not want to change your favorite animal to this unique one, but I hope I’ve at least broadened your horizons and maybe next time you’re asked to just mention an interesting animal, the okapi will come to mind.