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Friday, May 29, 2015

MUIRHEAD`S MYSTERIES: An ox-like horse or a horse-like ox? The Ushi-uma, A mystery quadruped from early 20th century Japan


I came across this story from the English language Japan Times of October 8th 1928

By Mock Joya for the Japan Times.

Zoologists and others may probably say that there is no such animal, but on the island of Tanegashima, Kyushu, they are raising a creature called the Ushi-uma (ox-horse). This animal looks like a cross between an ox and a horse. But even in Tanegashima it is a rare and strange animal, there being only about twenty of these quadrupeds at present existing. This animal, however, is no illusion, and if anyone doubts its existence, he may visit the horse exhibit that will be soon opened at the Uyeno park,Tokyo, as specimens of this strange animal will be exhibited there by the Kagoshima prefecture authorities.

There are many doubts as to the real nature of this animal, and  scientists have not yet agreed on the status of the Ushi-uma, though they have already made long studies of it. Of course all know that no cross between a horse and an ox is possible. But it is not known whether the Ushi-uma is a kind of horse that looks like an ox, or an ox with some of the characteristics of a horse. But because the animal retains the characteristics of the two different animals, it has been called the Ushi-uma.

Ushi-uma looks like a horse,and is only much smaller than the ordinary Japanese ponies. Its general appearance gives one the impression that it is a kind of horse, but it has no main. It has a coat of short, black and glossy fur. Around its mouth, it has tassels of long white hair just like camels have. These tassels make it look very comical. Its tail is not like that of a horse, but it is more like an ox tail, being narrow and long. The animal is quite timid but tame..

In the island of Tanegashima where this animal is being raised, it is commonly believed that the Ushi-uma is really a cross between an ox and a horse. But of course, that belief has no foundation, and it is believed so simply because the animal is given such a compound name.

It is certainly a rare and strange creature, possessing characteristics of both an ox and a  horse. It will be the first opportunity for the Tokyo people to see this strange animal of Tanegashima at the coming horse exhibit where the Ushi-uma will be a curious but strong drawing card. (1)

Richard Freeman mentions the Ushi-Oni in his The Great Yokai Encyclopaedia , a kind of ox demon, a bull`s  head, carnivore`s teeth and the body of a spider (2)

  1. The Japan Times 8/10/1928
  2. R.Freeman. The Great Yokai Encyclopaedia page  357

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