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12 animals mistaken for mythical creatures

By: Bryan Nelson on June 9, 2010, 1:25 p.m.
Okapi (Okapia johnstoni), forest giraffe or zebra giraffe, artiodactyl mammal native to jungle or tropical forest, Congo, Central Africa,

Photo: Jiri Hrebicek/Shutterstock

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One of the animals believed by some to be the mythical origin of the unicorn is the okapi. These bizarre deer-like mammals, which live in the rain forests of Africa, appear to be the combination of a giraffe, a zebra and an antelope. If seen from a distance they can resemble zebras or horses, and male okapis have two horns which, when viewed from the side, can appear as one. Of course, any number of creatures could have reinforced the myth of the unicorn. For instance, when European explorers first encountered narwhal tusks, many believed they were evidence of unicorns. But it's possible the elusive okapi started it all.