In 1824 the viceroy of Egypt sent a unique gift to the new king of France: a two-month-old giraffe that had just been captured in the highlands of Sudan. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll follow the 4,000-mile journey of Zarafa, the royal giraffe, from her African homeland to the king’s menagerie in Paris.
We’ll also visit Queen Victoria’s coronation and puzzle over a child’s surprising recovery.
Sources for our feature on Zarafa the giraffe:
Michael Allin, Zarafa, 1998.
Erik Ringmar, “Audience for a Giraffe: European Expansionism and the Quest for the Exotic,” Journal of World History 17:4 (December 2006), 375-397.
Heather J. Sharkey, “La Belle Africaine: The Sudanese Giraffe Who Went to France,” Canadian Journal of African Studies 49:1 (2015), 39-65.
Olivier Lagueux, “Geoffroy’s Giraffe: The Hagiography of a Charismatic Mammal,” Journal of the History of Biology, 36:2 (June 2003), 225–247.
Samuel J.M.M. Alberti, “Objects and the Museum,” Isis 96:4 (December 2005), 559-571.
Philip McCouat, “The Art of Giraffe Diplomacy: How an African Giraffe Walked Across France and Became a Pawn in an International Power Struggle,” Journal of Art in Society (accessed May 14, 2017).
Olivier Lagueux, “Zarafa: A Giraffe’s True Story, From Deep in Africa to the Heart of Paris [review],” Isis 92:1 (March 2001), 186-187.
S. Mary P. Benbow, “Death and Dying at the Zoo,” Journal of Popular Culture 37:3 (2004), 379-398.
Elena Passarello, “Beautiful Animal of the King,” Paris Review, Dec. 20, 2016.
Henry Nicholls, “Meet Zarafa, the Giraffe That Inspired a Crazy Hairdo,” Guardian, Jan. 20, 2014.
Olivier Lebleu, “Long-Necked Diplomacy: The Tale of the Third Giraffe,” Guardian, Jan. 11, 2016.
Today Zarafa stands on the landing of a stone staircase in the Museum of Natural History in La Rochelle.
Julia Baird, Victoria, 2016.
C. Dack, “The Coronation of Queen Victoria,” Pall Mall Magazine 48:219 (July 1911), 2-5.
Wikipedia, “East Asian Age Reckoning” (accessed May 26, 2017).
Josh Clark, “How Thoroughbred Horses Work,” How Stuff Works, Oct. 4, 2011.
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Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.
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