Myth became Legend, Legend became Truth.

Why do the Afrikaans speaking people refer to a grey rhinoceros as white? The popular etymological story goes like this:

The Dutch at the Cape of Good Hope called the white rhinoceros the “wide” (Dutch: wijd, Afrikaans: wyd) rhinoceros to refer to its wide mouth adapted for grazing – a grass eater. Its mouth is an anatomical feature that distinguishes it from the black rhinoceros, which is a browser – a leaf eater.

The English misheard/mistranslated ‘wijd’ and started calling the rhino “white”.

Some years later, the Dutch/AfrikanersĀ  on hearing that the English refer to this rhino as white, decided to use the Afrikaans translation for white rather than stick with the anatomically correct name they purportedly gave it earlier.

You won’t be alone in your incredulity; Kees Rookmaaker, Chief Editor of the Rhino Resource Center wrote in a 2003 publication “the popular explanation that ‘white’ is derived from the Afrikaans word ‘wyd’ is examined and found to be unsubstantiated and historically incorrect.”

White rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) at Pilanesberg.

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Some cats purr others can only roar.

Some cats species can purr and others roar but none do both.

It was thought that the characteristics of the hyoid bone determine which cats can roar as all the roaring cats:

  • lion (Panthera leo)
  • jaguar (Panthera onca)
  • tiger (Panthera tigris); and
  • leopard (Panthera pardus)

share the same hyoid bone structure.

However, turns out the snow-leopard (Panthera uncia) also shares the same hyoid bone structure, but does not roar but purr.

Back to the drawing board I guess.

Panthera leo the roaring cat with the biggest roar.

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Most four legged animals have a definitive gait change when they want to move faster; walk, trot, galop.

The elephant by contrast walks and walks faster. Even at its top speed at least one foot always touches the ground.

African Elephant (Loxodonta africana).

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The fastest bird in the world…

if you consider size; is Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna).

During courtship, the male of the species perform a diving dance and reaches speeds of up to 385 body lengths per second.

When they pull up at the end of these dives, they are subject to forces up to 10 g (10 times the earth’s gravitational pull).

Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna) .

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Painful but sweet

The sweet thorn (Acacia karroo) can punish absentminded travellers with its very long and rather sharp thorns.

It does however have a sweeter side; its gum.

The gum is sweet, edible and water soluble. It is used in syrups for soft drink, candy, icing sugar, chewing gum and as a lick-able adhesive e.g. on postage stamps.

Soetdoring (Acacia karroo) thorns and flowers.


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Deadliest of the Big Five, the smallest Herbivore.

The Cape Buffalo, (Syncerus caffer) now has the distinction of killing more hunters than any other member of the big five (the five animals most dangerous to hunt on African safari).

No doubt economics (hunting package price) and relative numbers contribute significantly to this position.

The other members of the big five family:

  • Elephant
  • Black Rhinoceros
  • Lion
  • Leopard
Cape Buffalo, (Syncerus caffer) in Addo Elephant Park.

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Beware I am dangerous, I mean harmless.

A number of animals do not camouflage themselves, but copy the bright colours of a dangerous one, a strategy called Batesian mimicry.

This harmless milk snake for example looks much like the very dangerous coral snake.

There are a number of little rhymes to differentiate based on theĀ  colour bands, like this one:

Red follows black – friend of Jack

Red follows yellow – dangerous fellow.

Did I mention it only holds true for North American snakes? (Do check place of birth before getting too friendly.)

Paula with a Pueblan milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulum campbelli).

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