Peace, Love & Giraffes

Chasing dreams and adventure in South Africa

Dashing Dassies

Confession: while most kids were watching cartoons on Sunday mornings, I was sprawled out in my PJs on our living room floor watching the 1966 film Born Free, based on the amazing true-life story of an orphaned lion cub named Elsa and her caretakers George and Joy Adamson in Kenya.

*Spoiler Alert*  When their mother was shot, Elsa and her siblings were left orphaned and the Adamsons took them in. The cubs are so darn cute and get into all kinds of harmless trouble, but of course grow up to be mature lions and too much for the Adamsons to handle so are eventually sent to a zoo. Predictably, Joy grew quite attached to the youngest lion cub, Elsa, and couldn’t bear to send her to a zoo, so the Adamsons decided to train her to be a free lion.They were successful. Elsa was the first lion to be successfully released into the wild, the first known to have cubs and to make contact after.

If you are like me and ever watched the movie as a kid, your takeaways were most likely:  1. You realllllyyyyy wanted a little lion cub of your own 2. If your parents wouldn’t let you have that, you would settle for a Pati-Pati.

Okay, so what is a Pati-Pati you ask? Well, before Elsa and the other lion cubs, Joy Adamson’s pet was Pati-Pati, which I now know is a Rock Hyrax or a Dassie (the South African term). The adorable Pati-Pati, which sort of looks like a Guinea Pig but whose closest relative is unbelievably the elephant, looked over the lion cubs and was sort of the pack mom. That is of course until they got wayyyy too big.

So why am I telling you all this? Because through all the mist, rain and cold on Table Mountain, I saw Dassies!

Can you spot him?


The nine-year-old girl in me was pretty excited to see this little cutie! Who would have guessed I’d see the little animal I adored, a Dassie, 17 years later and thousands of miles away on the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town with my husband? Life is just funny I tell ya.


I just wanted to name it Pati-Pati, put it in my bag and take it home with me! Unfortunately it ran off and I only got this photo. Poor guy, it must have been too cold up there for him!

Want more Dassies? Of course you do! The Table Mountain blog has a great photo essay on them.

Tell me, what movies were you obsessed with as a kid? And did you have any fantasy pets?



By | February 19th, 2014 | LEAVE A COMMENT