Is this the latest Photoshopped hoax? Or a new mythological cryptid? Maybe it’s something more wonderful than that? CryptoVille looks into this mysterious creature to see if it could be real, or another big disappointment.
When I first saw this picture on Facebook, I was sure it was a Photoshopped hoax. What kind of horse has striped legs like a zebra? Or maybe it’s a photoshopped donkey? Do you remember the “Elephant Fish” and the “Goblin Shark”? So I was very skeptical.
Sound the trumpets and begin the flourish of music because this little creature is real! It’s called the Somali Wild Ass and it is an ancestor of today’s donkey. It’s also related to the zebra, hence the stripes on its legs. I was anxious to learn more and if you feel the same way, then read on! (Photos in this article by Ron Magill.)
These beautiful creatures live in rocky deserts in very remote areas of East Africa. There are so few left in the wild that it’s feared something like a drought could kill them all off.
The are considered the smallest of the Equidae family (horses, zebras, wild asses) and are ancestors of today’s donkeys. They have a smooth gray coat that can look purple-ish when the light hits it right. They have a bristle-like mane that stands upright, just like zebras. Their bellies are white and they have black striped legs.
The San Diego Wild Animal Park oversees the breeding of these animals, lending them out to zoos around the US for breeding purposes. Scientists feel they have enough of these animals in captivity to keep the wild ass population healthy and free of any inbreeding problems.
Scientists have learned these animals are very social, having relationships within their herds that last a lifetime.
The mares carry their young for eleven months. The foals engage in a lot of play which scientists feel prepare them for many situations later in life.
These animals enjoy excellent vision and hearing. They usually try to outrun anything trying to kill them, but if they must, they can defend themselves with lethal kicks from their strong legs and pointy hooves.
Here are the physical stats on these beautiful animals, courtesy of the San Diego Zoo website:
Life span: Up to 40 years
Gestation: 11 to 12 months
Number of young at birth: Usually 1 every other year
Age of maturity: Up to 2 years for males, 2 to 4 years for females
Length: Average 6.6 feet (2 meters) long
Height: 4.2 to 5.5 feet (1.2 to 1.5 meters) tall at shoulder
Weight: Average 605 pounds (275 kilograms)
Weight at birth: 50 to 60 pounds (23 to 27 kilograms)
MPH: Somali asses have been clocked at 30 mph when running
The Somali Asses are herbivores. In the wild, they eat mostly grasses but will dig into some bark, “scrub”, and even some tough desert plants when they must. Like almost all animals, they require a regular source of water in order to survive.
Cold weather apparently comes to North Africa on occasion (who knew?) so the Somali asses grow longer coats to fend off the cold. In the Spring, they molt the excess hair off by rolling on the ground, scratching at themselves, and biting off whatever clumps of hair they can reach.
Scientists say two asses will stand side by side, head to tail, and obligingly nip off excess clumps of hair that their pals can’t reach.
Grooming is important to these animals, and is necessary to keep their skin healthy.
Mankind has been aware of these beautiful animals for a long time. The Egyptians domesticated them 6,000 years ago! They were also featured in ancient cave paintings found around the North African area.
Spanish explorers brought some domesticated Somali asses to the New World (Southwest US) when they came in the 16th century. The descendants of these animals are what we call burros and they still live in the desert Southwest.
Today they are critically endangered in the wild because they have been hunted for food and their body fat which local tribes believe cures tuberculosis.
Here’s a cute video of Somali Asses in action, courtesy of the St Louis Zoo, October 2013. Just under one minute long.
It’s so wonderful to find such special animals still living among us, and extra nice that science knows all about them! I’m still hopeful the other “special” animals of our world will soon join their ranks and be acknowledged by the scientific community!
Til the next time!