Friday, March 6, 2009


1. An African ruminant quadruped with long legs, very long neck, and skin spotted like that of the panther; now more commonly called GIRAFFE.
1398 TREVISA Barth. De P.R. XVIII. xx. (1495) 780 Cameleopardus hyghte cameleopardalis also, and hathe the heed of a camell..and speckes of the Perde. 1572 J. BOSSEWELL Armorie II. 53, P. beareth Or, a Cameleoparde, Sable, Maculé d'Argent. 1601 CHESTER Love's Mart. cxviii, The Horse, Cameleopard, and strong pawd Beare, The Ape, the Asse, and the most fearefull Deare. 1609 BIBLE (Douay) Deut. xiv. 5 The pygargue, the wild beefe, the cameloparde. 1613 PURCHAS Pilgr. I. VI. i. 464 The Giraffa or Camelopardalis, a beaste not often seene. 1653 H. COGAN Diod. Sic. 104 Those beasts called Cameleopards are procreated of them whose name they bear. 1708 MOTTEUX Rabelais V. xxx. (1737) 141 Hyæna's, Camelopardals. 1769 CARTERET in Phil. Trans. LX. 27 Inclosed I have sent you the drawing of a Camelopardalis. 1776 GIBBON Decl. & F. I. 350 Camelopards, the loftiest and most harmless creatures that wander over the plains of..Æthiopia. 1840 MACAULAY Ranke, Ess. (1851) II. 128 When camelopards and tigers bounded in the Flavian amphitheatre. [from the Oxford English Dictionary]
The species name camelopardalis is derived from the giraffe's early Roman name and from that arose the English word camelopard, which was in use from the 14th to the 19th centuries. As the word suggests, the giraffe was seen as the shape of a camel with the coloration of the leopard. But as the illustrations suggest, the animal was actually seen by very few. After a giraffe was brought from Africa to Italy in 708, they played a part in the Ancient Roman games. A specimen was brought to a zoo in China in 1414; another was presented to Lorenzo de'Medici in Florence in 1486; and a third was brought to the Emperor of Germany in 1559. Another famous giraffe lived for 18 years in a menagerie after it was taken to Paris in the early 1800s. It was about that time that the giraffe was accurately described and depicted by naturalists. They have since been observed and studied extensively, of course, and scientists have found - among other things - that the giraffe has one of the shortest sleep requirements of any mammal: from 10 minutes to 2 hours per day!

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