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Giraffa Camelopardalis, the giraffe

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Chapter Summary

The giraffe and its close relative the okapi are purely African mammals, and do not thrive elsewhere in the wild. The rare examples of giraffes in medieval Indian painting are copied from Arabian bestiaries. The even more rare stone depictions are, if not mythical, at their best interpretations of giraffe descriptions, in which only the typical long neck and steeping hindquarters survived. It is far more likely, however, that these strange giraffe-like animals in stone are just young dromedaries. They, too, had to be imported to southern and eastern India. With their very tall limbs and equally tall neck they have a strange and exotic appearance, especially when standing upright and browsing a tree. This is confirmed by a frieze from Andhra Pradesh on which the 'giraffe' is accompanied by adult dromedaries. Dromedaries, together with horses, were imported into the south to be used in warfare, but without much success.

Keywords: African mammal; Arabian bestiaries; giraffe; medieval Indian painting



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