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Is the Okapi a kosher animal? According to its Wikipedia page, it is most closely related to the giraffe, which everyone seems to agree is kosher. A quick Google search tells me that it chews its cud.

Secondly, is it categorized in the Torah under the chaya called zemer, or is it one of the other chayot (or possibly a behema)?

(@DoubleAA's suggestion: the Halachic application of this difference would be regarding chelev and kisui haddam: if we can classify this a chaya, its chelev would be permissable for consumption and we would not be commanded to cover its blood. If it is a behema, its chelev would be forbidden under penalty of lashes. If we remain unsure, we would be forbidden from eating its chelev (although we would be unable to punish one for doing so) and we would cover its blood without reciting a blessing (Rambam Ma'achalot Asurot 1:9).)

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Can you clarify that zemer would be a behemah and maybe explain a nafka mina between the two in the question? –  Double AA Feb 24 '12 at 22:10
    
anyway, we do not eat animals that we have no minhag that they are kosher –  jutky Feb 25 '12 at 22:14
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@jutky - Doesn't that rule only apply to birds? –  Adam Mosheh Feb 26 '12 at 0:41
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@Adam: depends who you ask. Some posekim understand Shach (Yoreh De'ah 80:1) to be saying that we need a mesorah for animals just as we do for birds; others explain him as just saying that we need a mesorah to distinguish between kosher domesticated vs. wild animals (which has implications as far as eating their cheilev). See DoubleAA's answer, particularly his third link. –  Alex Feb 26 '12 at 3:17
    
@Vram "chaya called zemer": Isn't zemer a behema!?! זֹאת הַבְּהֵמָה אֲשֶׁר תֹּאכֵלוּ: שׁוֹר, שֵׂה כְשָׂבִים וְשֵׂה עִזִּים. ה אַיָּל וּצְבִי, וְיַחְמוּר; וְאַקּוֹ וְדִישֹׁן, וּתְאוֹ וָזָמֶר ו –  Double AA Feb 27 '12 at 4:27
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3 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

According to here, Okapi is indeed kosher but is not the Zemer.

According to here:

The zemer, listed among the ten types of kosher animals in Deuteronomy (14:5), is identified as the giraffe by Rav Saadia Gaon, Rabbenu Yona, Radak, the Septuagint, and many others.

According to here, land animals without a tradition of their kashrut cannot be ruled as kosher according to the Chazon Ish, but can be according to the majority opinion including Shevet Halevi 10:114 and Rav Isaac haLevi Herzog (to quote some recent opinions on both sides). Additionally, he explains that animals with straight horns are in doubt if they are domesticated or not. Okapi have short straight horns.

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To the best of my understanding, it chews its cud and has split hooves, but we have no particular tradition about the okapi.

The Chochmas Adam says we need a tradition to determine whether a kosher mammal is a chaya ("wild", and thus the visceral fats are permitted) or beheima ("domesticated", and thus there is no need to cover its blood after slaughter). As we have no tradition on okapis, we would be strict both ways. (This means they'd have to painstakingly pick through the visceral fats, or do like cattle and just sell off the back half of the okapi -- making it even less cost-effective.)

It's debated by later authorities whether we need a tradition to eat a kosher mammal altogether, or just to determine its chaya/ beheima status. (The wording of the Chochmas Adam is open to interpretation.) Rabbi Hershel Schachter is inclined towards the latter, more lenient view.

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We are "strict both ways" when preparing the meat of the North American Bison (a.k.a. Buffalo) - but that doesn't prevent us from eating it. –  user1095 Feb 26 '12 at 3:01
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@Will Indeed those of the strict view in his last paragraph don't eat bison. See the article I link to in my answer. –  Double AA Feb 26 '12 at 3:07
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I don't know much about the animal. Coming from the family Giraffidae, it does have a ruminant stomach and chews its cud, as well as having cloven hooves, as giraffes do.

Everyone agrees that the giraffe, when shechted properly, is kosher, but the long neck prevents us from shechting it in a way that the animal would not feel pain before its conscious blacks out from the blood rushing away from the brain. The okapi has a much shorter neck, so this is probably a question for a very experienced shochet, which I am not.

Also, they are endangered, and it is illegal in most countries to kill them for food, so until they are removed from the endangered and threatened species lists, dina d'malchusa dina prevents us from doing any more research into the possible kashrus of these animals.

Is it a zemer? Wish I could help you with that one.

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Kosher giraffe meat has been prepared before, even recently for a special event in Jerusalem, exploring exotic kosher foods. It is extremely rare, for legal, monetary, and logistical reasons, but the long neck doesn't automatically disqualify it from kosher slaughter. –  user1095 Feb 26 '12 at 3:03
    
ari5av, welcome to the site, and thanks for your answer. I hope you stick around and enjoy the site. –  msh210 Feb 26 '12 at 8:28
    
+1 for Dina DeMalchutha Dina. –  Seth J Mar 13 '13 at 13:30
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