Five Animals That Used To Be Myths

Mythological CreaturesIt is hard to imagine that we often take certain animals for granted today, when just a century ago, they were considered mythical creatures.  The animals we see in our zoos were once considered the stuff of storybooks by our ancestors.  It is because of this, that creatures such as the Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot might actually hold some credibility because we just don’t know if they really exist.  If you fall into the camp that says, “You’ve got to be kidding!  There is no such thing as a Bigfoot!” Take a look at these other creatures that people once scoffed at as a figment of an overactive imagination.

myfivebest -1The Giant Panda
Today, the birth of a giant panda at a zoo makes headlines.  These native creatures of China, were completely unknown – even to the Chinese – as far back as…1916.  Yes, that’s right.  No one (in the West) knew of a living giant panda until the twentieth century.  Only a few years earlier, in 1869, a French missionary was given a panda skin from a hunter in China.  It was at this time that rumors of this mythical beast became known to Europe and America.  Almost immediately, after the panda’s discovery, Theodore Roosevelt had to take a safari to shoot one – which he did in the 1920s.  Today, the giant panda, which is a vegetarian, can be found in zoos all over the world.  It is estimated that no more than 2000 giant pandas exist in the world today.  The Chinese, who considered the panda to be a cross between a bear and a cat, keep a tight rein on the remaining symbol of their country.

myfivebest - 2Giraffe
The long necked giraffe has been around for millions of years, living in Europe and Asia.  Somehow, people didn’t know about it.  In more “modern times” it was only known to the ancient Egyptians – even though it did not live in Egypt.  The Pharaohs of old were quite aware of its existence though, and there are drawings of giraffes dating back thousands of years.  However, the Greeks and Romans weren’t so sure of its reality.  The Greeks referred to this creature as the camelopard – thinking that it was a cross between a camel and a leopard.  In fact, if you look at the scientific name for a giraffe today, you will find it is called giraffa camelopardalis. When the Romans came into power, they were able to capture a few of these animals and showcase them in their zoos and in exotic games.  The rest of the world would lose track of these treetop eating mammals until the fifteenth century.  When they were re-discovered, they became the spectacle they are today.

myfivebest - 3Gorilla
Have you ever wondered why Tarzan of the Apes is such a well-known story?  Part of it is because it was written at a time that Charles Darwin was teaching the world that man came from apes.  Another part of its fame comes from the fact that gorillas haven’t really been a known creature in civilization and people were fascinated by its existence.  Explorers would return from African jungles and tell stories about hairy, giant man-beasts of terrible strength and temper, with a nasty habit of abducting and raping women! Such stories were dismissed by scientists as nonsense, and as a result, the gorilla was unknown to science until quite recently.  It wouldn’t be until the 1850s that a European would actually see a live gorilla.  The giant mountain gorilla – which is a different species – would not be sighted until 1902.

myfivebest - 4Tiger
The tiger is one of the best known animals in the world, but this was not always the case. To the ancient Greeks, the tiger was a legendary animal, known as the manticore.   The Romans came around and they knew about lions.  If you watch the movie, Gladiator, you can see tigers being used in the death fights against the main character.  The Romans had such a far-reaching arm of their military that they were able to find such creatures and bring them back to Rome as a spectacle of the Emperor and the citizens.  Sadly, as with many things, when Rome fell and the Dark Ages took over, tigers were lost along with running water and sanitation.  In medieval times, the tiger was reduced to mythology and stories told in ancient times to scare children and travelers.

myfivebest - 5Python
It isn’t hard to put the connection between pythons and the creatures that have come down through history as dragons.  People who heard about these eighteen foot long snakes believed that they truly were dragons.  The Roman author, Pliny the Elder, tells of a dragon (i.e. python) killing a young elephant by wrapping it’s body in its coils and crushing it.  It doesn’t seem too far of a stretch to think that stories of dragons eating people whole could come from these creatures.  Now if we can only figure out how they learned how to fly and shoot flame out of their mouths…