Sometimes you run across a critter that really ought not exist in any reasonable world.
Sometimes those creatures have names that make it clear they’re really fantasy animals. The spotted quoll? I ask you. Can there really be an animal with that name? Of course not. Especially not one that looks like this:
It was seeing a picture of a baby spotted quoll on Twitter that made me think about animals that are plainly fantasy creations instead of real. There are actually quite a few, obviously. Here are a handful that strike me as particularly fantastical:
Who in the world names an animal a “cacomistle”? Especially an utterly adorable little fluffy thing with big eyes and that lovely tail. Don’t tell me these really exist. This is an animal your protagonist should encounter in an enchanted forest. They’re probably telepathic, though possibly not as friendly as they look. You may find out they have a hidden civilization in the canopy of the forest.
Here’s another, better known, I think. They tend to appear on all kinds of “strange animal” lists:
This is a gerenuk. I’ve always liked the name. Gerenuk. They belong in dream sequences where everything is elongated and delicate and moving in slow motion.
I’ve seen plenty of gerenuk. They breed easily in zoos. But even though I’ve seen them, I don’t really believe in them.
Now, we all must be familiar with this next one:
Even so . . . isn’t your reaction a kind of “Yeah, right,” incredulity? If not, let’s put this animal in motion and take another look:
Give me a break! You know that is too cute and too awkward and just too peculiar to be real. Where would you actually find okapis? I’ll tell you: in a haunted jungle setting in a fantasy novel, that’s where. People probably ride them.
In that world, you’d probably also get eland centaurs, like this fabulous drawing from DeviantArt:
And sable antelope for war beasts — I know, those horns would get in the way if you tried to ride them. This warrior would get skewered the first time the animal tossed its head back. But sable antelope would look spectacular in front of a chariot, wouldn’t they?
And I’m sure only the nobility would get to ride okapis. I’m not the only one who thinks okapis would make fabulous riding animals, either.
I know eland and sable antelope and okapis are all from different ecosystems. Shut up. It’s my fantasy novel. The kingdom encompasses a wide region, okay?