Scimitar Oryx at Zoo Leipzig, also known as "Leipzig Zoological Garden" (Germany)
The Scimitar Oryx or Scimitar-horned Oryx, also known as the Sahara Oryx, is a species of Oryx once widespread across North Africa which went extinct in the wild in 2000. It has a long taxonomic history since its discovery in 1816 by Lorenz Oken, who named it the Oryx Algazel. Its coat is white with a red-brown chest and black markings on the forehead and down the length of the nose. The coat reflects the sun's rays, while the black portions and the tip of the tongue provide protection against sunburn. The white coat helps to reflect the heat of the desert. Calves are born with yellow coats and lack distinguishing marks, which appear later in life. The Scimitar Oryx was once widespread in northern Africa. Its decline began as a result of climate change, and later it was hunted extensively for its horns. Today, it is bred in captivity in special reserves in Tunisia, Morocco and Senegal. The Scimitar Oryx was domesticated in Ancient Egypt and is believed to have been used as food and sacrificed as offerings to gods. Wealthy people in Ancient Rome also bred them. The use of their valuable hides began in the Middle Ages. The unicorn myth may have originated from sightings of a Scimitar Oryx with a broken horn.