The saola, a forest dwelling bovine, is also known as the Asian unicorn, and it is just as elusive as its mythical counterpart. Saolas are incredibly rare, and are even considered to be the rarest large mammal in the world. They live only in a very small region on the mountainous border between Vietnam and Laos, and they evaded scientists for decades before a discovery of saola remains in 1992 alerted the scientific community of an as-yet unknown species. It took five more years before a saola was first photographed in the wild by a hidden camera trap. Saolas have been kept in captivity before, but they have ever survived for long. This is likely due to stress and an unfamiliarity with humans. Saolas are very different from any other bovids, belonging to their own order and possessing many unique characteristics. Although they may look like a goat or an ibex, they are actually more closely related to cows and oxen. Saolas are large and brown in color, with white patches in their fur that differ between individuals. Both male and female saolas have large parallel horns on the top of their heads, and which is where they get their name from. Saola means “spinning-wheel post horn” in the Tai language of Vietnam, because these horns resemble the posts on the spinning wheels used by the Vietnamese people. Saolas are at home in the broadleaf evergreen forests and wet lowlands and marshes of the Annamite mountains. Little is known about the behavior of wild saolas, although scientists have inferred that they are solitary and territorial. In captivity, saolas have been observed to bleat and call out for unknown reasons. Because there are so few saola in existence, they probably do not have a great impact on the local ecosystem. Saolas are hunted for meat and their hides, and they are critically endangered due to this hunting as well as human encroachment onto their territory. Because they were discovered so recently, there is still much to learn about Saolas and their habits.
Keywords to learn
Bovine: cattle such as cows, oxen, and bison
Camera trap: a camera that is triggered by movement in the vicinity, used to photograph elusive animals
Hey Kids, my name is Sal the Saola and I am very happy to meet you. Learn more about me and my species @ www.kids.nationalgeographic.com
Key Red Panda Data
Lifespan:15 – 20 years.
Scientific Name:Pseudoryx nghetinhensis.
Mass:80kg – 100kg (176lb – 220lb).
Region found:Vietnam, Laos.
Population Status:Critically Endangered.
Current population trend:Decreasing.
The saola is an interesting and elusive animal, unique in that it is so rare and so recently discovered. Scientists still have much to learn about this interesting species, but they might not have much time.
Now that you know more about the saola by learning the key data above, be sure also to check out the fun facts. When you are finished learning the facts, try answering the questions in the Q&A corner on the bottom right side of the page.
Download questions about how the saola here: Saola (answers are on this page)
Teachers. For more in depth work sheets on the saola. Click on Kidskonnect Worksheets
Red Panda Fun Facts for Kids
- # 1. Saolas were the first new large mammal to be discovered in 50 years.
- # 2. Saolas have several natural predators, including the tiger, leopard, and dhole.
- # 3. When threatened, saolas lower their long horns to defend themselves.
- # 4. Saolas are terrified of dogs.
- # 5. Saolas have the largest maxillary glands of any living mammal.
- # 1. In what year was the saola discovered?
- # 2. Which two countries are home to saolas?
- # 3. From where does the saola get its name?
- # 4. Name two natural predators of the saola?
- # 5. Why do saolas not live long in captivity?