The Butterfly Rhino (Mbuse variant)
Though we may regularly face the dangers of the unknown, our party stridently efforts to delve into the darkest corners of the Natural World, the hidden pockets heretofore unlit by the lamp of Western Science. As an illustration of this point, we have returned from the nearly un-navigable swamplands of the Congo region of central Africa with news of many undiscovered species, perhaps the most notable being the Butterfly Rhinoceros.
Even the most knowledgeable among us, upon hearing the term “rhinoceros”, will picture a giant armoured brute, earthen brown or grey in colour, forehead and snout adorned with long and threatening horns. In lovely, if jarring, contrast, the Butterfly Rhinoceros is perhaps only slightly larger than an English Sheepdog, and has a stiff but velvety skin decorated with stunning patterns of the brightest hues.
In spite of its relatively small stature, the Butterfly Rhino remains a physically dense and weighty beast. How, one might ask, does such a heavy animal avoid sinking into the voracious mud of the perpetually sodden floodplains? The answer is its large, flat and circular footpads. These odd structures are able to spread the Rhinoʼs weight out across a broad surface, so drastically slowing its descent into the mire that the creature is able to ambulate amongst the tall swamp grasses without care, albeit quite slowly.
While brightly-coloured quadrupeds might seem the stuff of fantasy, Darwin and his fellow dissidents might explain their existence thusly: an isolated population of rhinoceri, either unable or unwilling to blend traits with any outside group, would have likely followed its own evolutionistic path, and hence a smaller size and oddly-shaped feet might serve as fit adaptations to the wet fields they now inhabit. Their slow speed would suggest little contact with predators, although crocodiles are not an uncommon site in the Congo Basin.
In many vertebrates there occurs a sexual dimorphism in which the male individuals are either more colourful, greater in stature, or both. Such is not the case with the Butterfly Rhinoceros. Our Field Artist has here rendered a portrait of a male Mbuse River variant. As beautiful as this little bull is, he is no match for the even more stunning cow. The she-Rhinoʼs glowing harlequin cloak fairly pulsates and crawls over her hide. When she is in oestrus, she will find a more or less open space amid the bulrushes. Up to five or six males will trudge into the clearing, creating a miniature symphony of sucking noises as their wide footpads pull up and then smack back down into the muck. Upon seeing the lustrous and desirable seductress, the little bulls freeze, all locomotion coming to a halt, eyes unblinking, beaks agape, as if in a trance. Now, in a noisy solo of her own, the beautiful cow suck-steps over to each bull, examines each in turn, then leads the chosen one away for a romantic tryst.
As to why we have not included a portrait of the female Butterfly Rhinoceros, the Field Artist tells us that she is so exceptional in his experience that he has so far felt unfit and incapable of capturing her visage in paint, so fantastical is she.
–Ogden Colter Fritillary III