How the leopard got his spots

This is my retelling of Rudyard Kipling’s Just so story ‘How the leopard got his Spots’

80157_small_feeding_giraffeLong time ago, very long ago in the high veldt (not the the_high_veldlowveld aka Chiredzi or the bush veldt aka Matobo) everybody was fair and sandy coloured and blended in with the ‘sclusively sandy coloured yellowy, reddish, greyish high veldt.  The Giraffe had no patches and the Zebra no stripes, and they lived there and the Hartebeest, Eland and Kudu lived there and they were all ‘sclusively sandy, yellowish brownish.

There also lived there the Leopard and the Ethiopian and they were the 80145_leopard‘sclusively yellowish brownish of them all. The pair used to hunt together, the Leopard with his teeth and claws and the Ethiopian with his bows and arrows. They matched the high veld so well, which was very bad for giraffe and zebra and the all the other animals, because the pair would lie low in a bit of the high veldt  and when the Giraffe or Zebra, the Hartebeest or eland or kudu came back they would surprise them out of their jumpsome lives.

amazon_tree-acacia_treeThis made all the others very skittish and very, very jumpsome and one day they scuttled and walked and ambled for a very long time in a long winding ribbon of animals until they came to a forest. It was a great forest ‘sclusively full of great trees. The trees were stripy and spickley and speckly and made shadows that were patchy and thatch and blotchy and splotchy. After a long while from standing in all those patchy splatchy, silvery shadows the Giraffe grew blotchy patches on his skin and the zebra got stripy. The Eland and Kudu darkened and gained wiggles and waves on their backs, like the bark on the trees of the great forest.

The Leopard and the Ethiopian grew hungry as the days passed and came across Bavian who was the wisest creature of all. ‘Where have all our baboonbreakfasts, and dinner’s and teas gone?’ Leopard asked Bavian for he was indeed the wisest one! Yes we need to know the origin of the aboriginal faun said Ethiopian (which meant the same thing as what leopard had asked, but because he was a grown-up he used big words and because Bavian was so wise Bavian understood them)

Bavian winked and replied ‘The game has gone into other spots and my advice to you is to go into other spots to, quick as you can’

And he said to the Ethiopian ‘The aboriginal fauna has joined the aboriginal flora and my advice to you is to change expeditiously (Bavian knew he could use big words with the Ethiopian because the Ethiopian was a grown up)

The Leopard and Ethiopian were very confused but set off toward the aboriginal 80151_zebraflora or in other words toward the forest, and after a long time of scuttling and walking they came across it - all hatched and cross hatched, and blotchy and splotchy and patchy and shady.  The leopard was puzzled by the darkness filled with patches of light. The Ethiopian could smell giraffe and hear giraffe but he could not see giraffe. The leopard felt dazed and deduced that he could only smell and hear zebra but could not see him because he was still dazed from the hot savannah high veldt sun and his eyes were still adjusting to the shady forest.

The Ethiopian suggested it had been sooo long since they’d seen them that they’d forgotten what they looked like. ‘Nonsense’ retorted leopard ‘I remember them well, especially their marrow bones’, and he licked his sandy coloured yellow lips. 

'Well, Then they ought to show up in this here shady aboriginal flora like an elephants tusk against burnt veldt.


The pair hunted all day and then declared that daylight hunting was for the birds, so they decided to wait until night time. Leopard heard something and smelt something very like zebra that came all stripy through branches, and giraffewhen he knocked it down it brayed like zebra and felt like zebra. But he couldn’t see it!  ‘Be quiet, you shapeless creature. I am going to sit on your head until morning when I can get a better look at you and figure you out-because right now you really don’t make sense to me’

The same thing happened with the Ethiopian and something very like Giraffe. Sit on it ‘till morning hollered Leopard and so the Ethiopian did.

giraffe_in_treesThe dawn came and the Ethiopian peered curiously scratching his head. This really ought to be giraffe but it is covered with strange ruddy brown patches, what have you got leopard.  Leopard pursed his sandy coloured lips…mmm it ought to be zebra but it is covered with strange black and grey and white stripes.  What on earth have you 2 done with yourselves??! I’d have spotted you a half marathon off in the high veldt.


‘Ha-ha’ replied Zebra ‘this is the aboriginal flora though and NOT the high veld! Can’t you see, let us show you.’

zebraZebra and Giraffe shot up and blended back into the blotchy splotchy stripy swipy shadowy interior of the aboriginal flora. ‘Hey up’ cried the Ethiopian fearing he had lost his tea ‘that’s a clever trick, and you show up like a fire fly in a bat’s cave here leopard!’

‘Oh speak for your self – you show up like an etching on the bark of a baobab tree’ retaliated the hungry leopard.

‘Well’ there’s nothing else for it, we need to heed Bavian and change our skin!’ mud_puddle_okavango The Ethiopian found a small clay puddle of blackish, brownish hue. This will work nicely he said plying it on his skin and working it in, until he was completely covered.

‘what of me’ simpered leopard. The Ethiopian sighed, for the puddle had diminished. ‘Bavian told you to go to spots’ there’s still colour to be had here, and he dipped his fingertips in the puddle remnants and held them together on leopard’s skin.  ‘Oh please don’t give me big blotches like giraffe that will not do…or stripes like Zebra’.

‘Well make up your mind’ said Ethiopian ‘I can’t go hunting with you as you are’.

‘ Very well’ said leopard ‘its spots but keep them small like this first one you’ve done here.’

And the Ethiopian filled the leopards sandy, yellowy, browny coat with rosettes of spots from his fingers, sometimes a little smudgy but splendid. And Just like the dappled sunshine underneath branches. Leopard loves to rest in branches of trees.

And that is how leopard got his spots.


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