Safari Series: So ugly they’re cute?

Each animal that I’ve seen on safari has been beautiful in its own way. And when I do come across one that’s — let’s say, less beautiful — there’s usually still some other reason why I don’t want to take my eyes off of it — the graceful way that it moves (wildebeest); its size (hippo); its semi-creepy imitation of a human being (baboon). I’m struggling to find a good one for the Hyrax or the Warthog, so “so-ugly-its-cute” will have to do until I can think of something better.

The Hyrax looks kind of like a rat-raccoon-guinea pig hybrid and doesn’t do much of interest, but it does have two claims to fame. First of all, it gets a shout-out by name in the Old Testament. How many animals can compete with that? It’s specifically mentioned as an animal that isn’t kosher even though it chews its cud, because it doesn’t have split hooves. Turns out that it doesn’t actually chew its cud either, it just kind of looks like it does, but same difference. Second, it’s believed by some scientists to be the elephant’s closest living relative, which I would not have seen coming. They both have longish noses (although the Hyrax can’t exactly compete with the Elephant in that department) and trouble regulating their internal body temperatures.

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Next up, the Warthog, which has a lot to overcome in the cuteness arena, starting with its name. Then of course there are the warts that give it the name. It makes weird grunting noises that don’t win it any points, either. But that said, I do actually think that these babies are kind of cute. Mama warthog is a tougher sell.

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And finally, one more piece of Lion King trivia for you today: Pumba is the Swahili word for a simpleton or a fool. Ouch, Disney.

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