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Puku (Kobus vardonii)

Posted on Jun 29, 2007 by in Ungulates | 6 comments

Kobus vardonii
Number 0027

I’ve started to worry that I will draw all the mammals that I know or that I find interesting or that other people like in the first couple years of my project, leaving me with more than a decade of obscure, never-photographed mammals and lots of rodents. I checked out a book from the library called Mammals—Their Latin Names Explained by A.F. Gotch, and I’m trying to “randomly” choose mammals I’ve never heard of to draw. The puku is one of those, as is the edible dormouse from a couple of days ago. (I put randomly in quotation marks because in fact, I’m choosing them based on their names.)

The puku is an antelope that lives in central southern Africa. The males, like this one, have these lovely ridged horns. The vardonii part of the puku’s Latin name is a tribute to Major Frank Vardon. A.F. Gotch tells us that Vardon was “an English elephant hunter, and a friend of Livingstone when in Africa about the year 1850; he wrote the first scientific paper on the Tsetse Fly.”


  1. here’s what you should do: create an excel spreadsheet with 14000 entries in it with the latin name for each mammal in the first column. Then you can put “Yes” in the column next to ones you’ve drawn. To choose one to draw that isn’t a request, you can use a random number generator that picks a number between 1 and 14000. At first, you won’t have a lot of collisions (where you choose a number you’ve already drawn)… but eventually, you’ll have to change the scheme (I can advise you on that… this is how we randomly choose precincts to audit in electronic voting BS). You could also keep other information in your spreadsheet like permalinks to the entries where you have the drawings, notes, etc.

  2. Joe, that’s brilliant! and funny because I actually HAVE such an Excel spreadsheet with the Latin names (downloaded from here). But I hate Excel, so I printed it out to pencil in which ones I’ve drawn. The downsides are that, well, it’s pencil and paper, and it only has the Latin names, so it’s a pain to use, so I haven’t kept it up to date. And when I tried using it to randomly choose a mammal (by closing my eyes and pointing), I kept getting ones that I couldn’t find any reference images for (I work from photographs, looking at 20 or so to learn how the mammal looks). But that’s something I’m just going to have to deal with sooner or later, so…

    Maybe I’ll put my spreadsheet in Google spreadsheets, which I find slightly more tolerable than Excel (I don’t know why I hate it so…) and start using it more faithfully.

    I appreciate people like you (and Ted, Dana, and Laura) who take this crazy plan seriously enough to help me with dilemmas like this one!

  3. Yeah, excel sucks fierce… I’ve got a thing against microsoft products (they mostly suck fierce). It sounds like the rate-limiter will eventually be if you can find one or two pictures of the animal in question to draw them… unfortunately, this might increasingly take up a substantial part of your day! Anyway, I was also thinking that you might have to, at some point, have a publicly-articulated (available) list of what you’ve drawn… imagine if someone wants to make a request 13 years from now… they’ll have ~365 choices but anything they can thing of will more than likely already be drawn. So you might want to have a list that says “these I’ve already drawn” and “these I haven’t”.

    Also, if you Creative Commons Attribution license these images ( ), people could use them on Wikipedia pages. However, that would permit commercial uses by others and derivative works, so only low-resolution images might be appropriate just in case you want to start publishing coffee-table books of years of Daily Mammal at a time. :)

  4. Good ideas, both about Creative Commons and about a public database or list of some sort.

    Man, who would have guessed that the administrative part of this project would be so complicated? For instance, I’ve already had to reject a couple of requests—New Guinea singing dogs and brown bears—because they are subspecies of other mammals, and who has time for subspecies when there are 5,000 species as it is? (Actually, the grizzly bear, which I already drew, is a subspecies of the brown bear, so I figure that one’s covered).

  5. FYI, I went to a forum on Creative Commons, and I heard that you can limit your license to non-commercial use only. Or, you can have-as a clause in your license- that people who use your work have to share with others.

  6. Yeah, I should probably do that. I would want to use the most restrictive license they have, I’m sure. It’s funny because I’m SO in favor of Creative Commons THEORETICALLY and for looser copyright laws, etc., but not so much when it comes to my own stuff!

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