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Origin: From Portuguese abada ‘female rhinoceros’, perhaps from Malay.
Origin: [Pg., the female rhinoceros.]
Abada was the name given to a female Indian rhinoceros kept by the Portuguese kings Sebastian I and Henry I from 1577 to 1580 and by Philip II of Spain from about 1580 to 1588. It was the first rhinoceros seen in Europe since the specimen that was sent as a present from the King of Portugal, Manuel I, to Pope Leo X in 1515, which died in a shipwreck off the coast of Italy in early 1516, immortalised as Dürer's Rhinoceros. Abada was probably meant as a general term for the rhinoceros, as it derives from the Malay word for the animal and may have been in use in Spain and Portugal from around 1530, but since this was the only example of the species in Europe it served as a proper name as well. In 1577, the rhinoceros arrived at the port of Lisbon intended for the menagerie of Sebastian I of Portugal, probably as a gift from the viceroys of India. As a safety measure the horn was removed. Sebastian was succeeded by Henry I the following year. On the death of Henry in 1580, Philip II of Spain claimed the throne, uniting the Spanish and Portuguese crowns, and inherited the rhinoceros which he transferred to the menagerie of Casa de Campo, close to Madrid. On 16 October 1583 Philip transferred Abada once again, this time to the menagerie of El Escorial. The transfer did not take place without incident: one of the keepers decided to refresh the animal by dousing it with buckets of water, but the sudden soaking startled her and, in panic, she knocked down all her attendants. At El Escorial, Abada was put on display to the public and presented to the Japanese ambassadors in November 1584. Juan González de Mendoza mentions it in his book, China, in which he comments that the public were impressed by its thick hide and horn, and that there was speculation as to it being the unicorn of legend.
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