This weekend has inadvertently been about featuring animals with interesting bums as we move on to the okapi. After yesterday’s color explosion, I decided to try a quick little doodlewash with a limited palette, due in part to my equally limited time today. The wonderfully unique and unfortunately endangered okapi is a solitary and elusive creature that can only be found in the dense, lowland rain forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa. Despite sporting the bottom of a zebra, its actually the only living relative to a giraffe, earning it’s more common nickname of “forest giraffe.”

These are extremely solitary creatures making it incredibly rare to actually see one in the wild. For years, Congo natives would talk of the animal, but no Europeans had actually ever seen one, so it quickly obtained a mythical appeal and was dubbed the “African unicorn.” Also, okapis use infrasonic calls to communicate with their calves in the dense forests that cannot be heard by humans. These skills and the amazing ability to play a sort of hide and seek with predators using their incredible hearing make them easily elusive as a unicorn.

Other key components of the okapi include an unusually long tongue that is primarily used to wrap around the leaves they eat, but is also handy in grooming their babies. It’s so long, in fact, they can even groom themselves, since they can lick their entire face and ears. Though beautifully marked, they have scent glands in their feet that leave behind a tar-like substance to mark their territory. So, in the case of the okapi, beauty comes at the price of really stinky feet. If there’s an uncommon creature that you’d like to see doodlewashed next, don’t forget to shout it out in the comments.

About the Doodlewash

M. Graham watercolors: Burnt Sienna, Ultramarine Blue, Neutral Tint and Titanium White Gouache. Lamy Safari Al Star pen with Platinum Carbon black ink in a 5″ x 8″ 140 lb. (300 gsm) Pentalic Aqua Journal


Posted by:Charlie O'Shields (doodlewash)

Creator of Doodlewash® and founder of World Watercolor Month™ (July) and World Watercolor Group™. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world!

46 replies on “The Okapi

  1. For some reason I had it down that the okapi was a type of fish – apparently not, eh (it has turned up on Countdown a few times; I must have blacked out every time the definition was given). He’s blummin’ adorable, even if he is apparently mooning us… he knows what he’s doing, he’s a character alright😉 But how I love his zebra hide and big ears! Eee! This is far too cute.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was the same… I’d heard the word and yet had to google it to figure out what the heck it was! Lol… although I like the name African Unicorn best. I guess we’d all have a habit of mooning people all the time if our butts were this remarkably tattooed. Come to think of it, there are people out there now with remarkably tattooed butts, but these guys were first! Lol

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve actually seen an okapi at our Cincinnati Zoo and was happy to learn more about it through your post, stinky feet and all! A suggestion for another unusual creature is one that I was fascinated by at the Monterey Aquarium in Monterey, California. It is called a weedy seadragon. I don’t know how uncommon they are but we don’t have any around these parts🙂. They look like a clump of seaweed and move about very gracefully.

    Liked by 1 person

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