Excerpt from the book Animals Evolution Avoided. This book describes 40 animals that ought to exist but don’t, because I made them up.


The Bactrian Heron is chiefly found along the length of the Amu Darya River as it flows from the Pamir Mountains to the Aral Sea in Central Asia. This heron feeds on most of the local fish including the gudgeon, the Turkestan catfish, and the many brown trout in the river. The Amu Darya is the modern name of the Oxus River.

This heron is famed for two things. The first is its legendary concentration. When the leader of the Rashidun Caliphate forces at the Battle of the Oxus River in 651 AD, Ahnaf ibn Qais, was walking with his advisers by the river before the battle, legend has it that he saw a Bactrian Heron stalking a fish. He and his people watched as the heron barely moved for half-an-hour until the fish was close enough for the heron to strike. Ahnaf turned to his advisers and said that if his forces had half the patience of the bird, they would win the day.

Nearly nine hundred years earlier Alexander the Great had crossed the Oxus in order to apprehend Bessus, the governor of Bactria. Alexander ordered that Bessus’s nose and ears be cut off. The implement used was the 8-inch beak of a recently deceased Bactrian Heron. Alexander was so impressed by the sharpness of the beak that he asked for it, so he could use it as his own personal dagger. The beak will shatter bones on impact. The Bactrian Heron’s beak is the sharpest in the bird world and can penetrate a phone book and metal sheets with ease. A local fish kebab is colloquially known as Heron’s Beak for this reason.