When one of the world’s rarest mammals makes an appearance, a number of equally exotic words tend to follow. This wild, extraordinary creature hasn’t been photographed since 1999. However, reports emerged this week that a small village in Laos captured one. Sadly, it died several days later.
(The mythical unicorn is typically depicted with a single horn in the center of its forehead. The word comes from the Latin unus, which means “one,” and cornu, which means “horn.” The ancient Greeks thought that the fierce unicorn was a handful to capture, but that it would docilely lay its head in a virgin’s lap if presented with the opportunity.)
Saola means “spindle-horned.” It is also known as the Vu Quang ox, the Vu Quang bovid, and by its Latin name, Pseudoryx nghetinhensis. The incredibly reclusive beast is called saht-supahp by Hmong natives. The term comes from Lao and means “the polite animal.” Somewhere between the fantasy of the unicorn and the real-life sadness of the saola is the phenomenon of the chupacabra. Why does the alleged creature’s name mean “goat-sucker?” Find out here. The saola wasn’t even known to scientists until 1992 when the bovine was first spotted in a nature reserve in Vietnam. You can see a photo of one here.
It is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. It’s unknown how many are in existence; the number could be in the hundreds or even down to just a dozen. Only 11 have been recorded alive. The saola can be compared to cattle, nyala, kudu, and elands. It has similarities to an oryx, which typically have long, straight upright or swept-back horns.
An actual creature whose name may sound too odd to be real is the zedonk. Learn what the heck it is, here.