...am going to show you guys are a couple of mythical creatures.

So what's the twist in this? These mythical creatures actually exist. What do you think about that, eh?
All right, let's start with a few surprising ones. The animals I'm going to show you were once-upon-a-time thought about as just a simple myth.

1. Mountain Gorilla

Gorillas in general were thought to be a simple myth until 1847, when Thomas Savage got a hold of some bones and skulls and he published the first description of the animal. Until then, people who visited Africa and came back with stories of "great and strong humans, covered with fur and having a terrible temper, who live in trees and eat fruits" were mostly thought of as borderline insane. The Mountain Gorilla, which is an even bigger variety of the species was thought to be nonexistent until 1902. And look at where we are now, guys. If a Zoo doesn't have one, it's not a good enough Zoo. 

2. Giant Panda 

These animals, just like the Gorillas were practically unheard of -even in China- until the 20th century, and even then, they only existed on depictions. Until 1869 any word about a possible "white bear" living in bamboo forests were treated like a myth. What changed this? Well, it was Armand David, a French missionary, who came upon a panda skin and sent it back to Europe. The fun part of it, though was that this wasn't an actual Panda yet. 

The first sighting of a Panda by an European happened in 1916, by a German zoologist called Hugo Weigold who bought a panda cub. 

Oh, and another fun fact about pandas; in China they were though about as the giant, mutant version of a raccoon (and were actually named the Great Bear-Cat, because its eyes resemble more of a cat's than of a bear's). 

3. Okapi

Look at that picture, and quickly tell me what does it remind you of? If you answered with "unicorn", you are definitely right. 

You see, Okapis also live in the rain-forests of Africa, and even though the only okapis that have horns are the male ones (and even they have a pair of them), when looking at them from a distance and from their sides, they can be easily mistaken with a Unicorn. There is also the part where some people considered the rhinos as the beings behind the Unicorns- which is kind of great, considering that both of these creature's horns are considered magical. (Yes, people in Africa considered Rhino horns full of magic) Still, rhinos don't really resemble horses, so I'm guessing it must have been a combination of these two animals. 

4. Gigantopithecus 

Sure, these animals are extinct by now - at least no one actually came up with a live one for quite some time -, but they are the reason why myths about the Yeti and Bigfoot exists. Gigantopithecus lived in Asian forests, and they were the largest apes that ever existed. They were also bipedal, which would make quite a sight if you came across one. 

It could be kind of ironic to actually find a fossil of one of these animals, thinking that you finally found  a deceased Bigfoot, while it is probably even more valuable than that. 

Oh, by the way, some scientists think that they might have persisted into recent times too (although if this happened, I do believe they would look a lot more different than they looked like back then). 

5. Flamingo 

Look at those pretty birds! What do they look like, though? What if I tell you that you are looking at a Phoenix? 

You know, there are two different flamingo species living in Africa. Also, the first description of a phoenix happens to come from Egypt. And what was the description of these birds? "A heron-like bird with crimson feathers". That's about it, guys. The whole "fire" part of it comes from the strange way these animals look like when they are in a large group. When they move, from a distance, you might think that there's a fire flickering over there. Don't believe me? Imagine seeing this from a distance: 

+1. Homo Floresiensis 

These little men were discovered not too long ago on the Indonesian island called Flores (thus, the name). They are a new branch on the human evolutionary tree, and they lived alongside modern humans about 12000 years ago. Of course, they are referred to as hobbits, but they were actually thought about as mythical creatures that lived in caves, were covered in hair, were really short and didn't have a language. 

If you are curious about the stories behind these creatures, feel free to look up "Ebu Gogo" (a folk lore about nasty little creatures that stole human babies to eat). 

Now, the most fascinating thing about these would be how all the fantasy stories came to be. Could these ancient men be where stories about leprechauns, dwarves and other small creatures? It would definitely make sense!