Okapis were known as far back as the 5th century BCE, although the European and Western world would not become aware of them until much later. For many years, a mysterious animal was rumored among Europeans to live in Africa, referred to as the “African Unicorn”.
European explorers who saw traces of or heard stories about Okapis were puzzled, as it seemed to have characteristics associated with donkeys, horses, zebras, and other hooved animals. Eventually, some striped skins and a skull were obtained by the British special commissioner in Uganda, Sir Harry Johnston.
The skull, when studied, showcased the relationship between the okapi and the giraffe. The word “okapi” comes from the languages of the people of the Congo region, including Mbuba and Lese Karo.