Problems with the Ark Kinds


Although I have not spoken much about this (if at all), I no longer consider myself a Young Earth Creationist. The reasons for this are multiple, and one of these days I plan to publish a dump truck of all my thoughts and my current religious perspective. I am just not ready for that yet. But when I did fully accept the “biblical” model of Creation, I was most passionate about a subject called baraminology.1 I have always loved zoos and animals, so tracing the common ancestry and seeing the diversity that God programmed into his Creation were amazing to me. As I became invested in the Hebrew Roots Movement and convinced that we should only eat clean animals, I came to an amazing discovery: All clean land animals show a high degree of common ancestry, implying that they could derive from a single original pair or created population.

Speak to the people of Israel, saying, These are the living things that you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth. Whatever parts the hoof and is cloven-footed and chews the cud, among the animals, you may eat. … These are the animals you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, the deer, the gazelle, the roebuck, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope, and the mountain sheep. Every animal that parts the hoof and has the hoof cloven in two and chews the cud, among the animals, you may eat.
—Leviticus 11:2-3; Deuteronomy 14:4-6

Consider the similarity between these animals. All are even-toed ungulates of the suborder Ruminantia.2 At least superficially, the differences between their various horns and antlers seemed minimal to me.3 They all have some variation of the four-chambered stomach seen in cattle. I was thoroughly convinced that God had created one single created kind of clean mammals which diverged sometime before the Flood,4 allowing for all the variety we see today. (Although giraffes are not accounted for in the above verses, they are recognized as being clean animals and share the two requirements in Leviticus and Deuteronomy to be considered clean. This has even been recognized by Orthodox Jews.)5

At the Ark Encounter, we might expect to see seven pairs of clean animals (or six pairs with an extra pair of cattle), but the signage would likely still indicate that they are from the same holobaramin.6 I was bothered, though, by how they grouped them. On the boat itself, they have separate signs and cages for the giraffe kind (family: Giraffidae), the deer kind (family: Cervidae), and the cattle kind (family: Bovidae). This wasn't so bad to me, because it at least seemed reasonable that all living clean mammals could be descendants from these three pairs, and maybe Answers in Genesis' position was that these were still related, just speciated before the Flood. If that were the case, calling them separate “kinds” may be inaccurate, but it still fit my headcanon.

All of this falls apart, however, when you enter Emzara's Kitchen, the two-story buffet outside the Ark Gift Shop. The restaurant has an impressive taxidermy exhibit which mostly contains ruminants. If you read through the signs for each animal, you'll see the follow “kinds” delineated:
    Seven or Fourteen?
  • Deer kind
  • Hippotragus Antelope kind
  • Antelope kind
  • Hartebeest kind
  • Cattle kind
  • Duiker kind
  • Tsoan kind

These are a lot of distinct kinds! Remember, the Ark Encounter assumes that there were seven pairs of each kind of clean animal. That means we have 98 animals accounted for in the list from the restaurant, plus another 14 when we add back in giraffes—112 total clean mammals were in the ark! I understand that AiG's rationale is to get the most animals possible on the ark to “prove” its feasibility, but that is not an honest way to go about defining kinds. In the Summer 2012 publication of the Answers Research Journal, supposedly a peer-reviewed, academic publication of creationist research, we find this glaring admission:

The two largest families of ruminants are Cervidae and Bovidae. Nearly all Cervidae have antlers, though in many species it is only in the male. They also lack a gall bladder. Bovidae have horns rather than antlers; these are neither branched nor shed (Huffman 2011). There have been several claimed hybrids between deer (Cervidae) and cattle or sheep (Bovidae), but they have not been well documented enough to be deemed reliable. Mating has been observed between members of these families (Gray 1972). There are species of deer (Cervidae) and antelope (Bovidae) that are not easily identifiable to family unless the cranial appendages are present. All this hints that one created kind could have given rise to all in Ruminantia. However, given the diversity of this group I will split them so as to avoid underestimating the number of kinds on the Ark.7

Deer kind

This category makes sense as a stand-alone group, since deer and their relatives are distinguished from other groups by their antlers.

Hippotragus Antelope kind

This “kind” actually refers to a genus of antelopes. Antelope is a colloquial term that describes a number of genera within the family Bovidae. We will talk about antelopes more in a moment.

Antelope kind

“Antelope are not a cladistic or taxonomically defined group. The term is used to describe all members of the family Bovidae that do not fall under the category of sheep, cattle, or goats. Usually, all species of the Alcelaphinae, Antilopinae, Hippotraginae, Reduncinae, Cephalophinae, many Bovinae, the grey rhebok, and the impala are called antelopes.”8 Granted, my primary source for this is Wikipedia, but that is better peer-reviewed than the ARJ which can get away with making things up to “prove” ark feasibility.

Hartebeest kind

Again to quote Wikipedia, the first sentence in the hartebeest article says, “The hartebeest, also known as kongoni, is an African antelope.” Antelopes, as we recall, are members of the family Bovidae.

Cattle kind

So far all the “kinds” on this list should fall into this category except for deer. Antelopes, Hippotragus antelopes, and hartebeests are all members within the family Bovidae. One might wonder if the division was at the level of subfamily, in this case, Bovinae. Even this fails, however, because some antelopes are in a separate subfamily (Antilopinae), while others belong to the Bovinae subfamily.

Duiker kind

Duikers are the common name of the subfamily Cephalophinae, who also belong to the family Bovidae. They are considered a type of antelope.

Tsoan kind

It took me a quick second to figure out what the Tsoan kind is supposed to be because this is not the name of a taxonomical group. It turns out, tsoans are a loose-defined group within the Caprinae subfamily which specifically refer to grazing caprins such as sheep and goats, while excluding other caprins such as musk oxen.

There are other clean mammals which bear a great deal of similarity to the aforementioned groups which aren't even mentioned on AiG's signage, such as the mouse deer. According to the ARJ article I cited earlier, the distinct kinds of clean mammals on the ark are delineated with pretty pictures sourced from Wikipedia, but no actual explanation or research into the kind divisions whatsoever. Most of these distinct kinds don't even get the benefit of a one-sentence description. While Dr. Jean Lightner does have a degree in veterinary medicine, I am skeptical of her qualifications to unilaterally define which kinds all animals alive and dead fall into, especially considering she apparently only worked in the field for three years before leaving the workforce to homeschool her children. I am 100% in favor of homeschool and will never shame a mother for her decision to have a career or be a homemaker (I'm conservative myself), but this does not seem like the kind of robust résumé that the team at Answers in Genesis should be basing their entire Ark Encounter animal displays on. Do you remember how the clean animals on the ark would have numbered 112 based on the named kinds on the grounds? Well with her entire list from the ARJ, we are now up to 184. That's a lot of unnecessary animals, considering that camels and T-rexes had to restart their populations with just two members apiece.
  • Mouse deer kind
  • Musk deer kind
  • Deer kind
  • Pronghorn kind
  • Giraffe kind
  • Impala kind
  • Hartebeest kind
  • Antelope kind
  • Cattle kind
  • Tsoan kind
  • Duiker kind
  • Hippotragus Antelope kind
  • Reedbuck kind

When I quit my job at Answers in Genesis back in early February 2019, my boss asked if I had any suggestions on how they could improve. One of the final things I did was go through Emzara's Kitchen and document this very issue, as well as a few others of lesser significance throughout the ark. I wrote it all up in a Word document that unfortunately never made its way off my employee laptop, and I hoped my boss would pass it along to the design team. Well I was just there today (2/29/2020), and they have not fixed this. They don't care about accuracy, even within their own parameters, as long as they are able to wow and astound the undereducated masses who are unfortunate enough into being talked into attending their attractions.

Was every species on the ark? No! From chapters such as Leviticus 11, it is obvious that the created kind (min in Hebrew, in Genesis 1:11–12, 21, 24–25) was a much broader category than the modern term of classification, species. Current baraminological research suggests that the created kind most closely corresponded to the family level in current taxonomy. However, to be conservative in this study, the genus was set as equivalent to the original created kind. As for the clean animals that entered the ark in seven pairs, this added a modest number of additional animals, notably bovids (cow-like mammals) and cervids (deer-like mammals). Under these conservative assumptions, there were no more than 16,000 land animals and birds on the ark.9

Looking at this sign from the first deck of the Ark Encounter, we see four “kinds” listed under the “Clean Mammals—Living” list. (Stupidly, I did not take a photograph of this sign during my recent visit, so I cannot make out the names of the extinct creatures they mention.) While I can barely read the words, it appears the four groups they mention are Cervidae, Giraffidae, Bovidae, and Capridae (primarily goats and sheep). Capridae are not recognized as a separate family anymore; they have been redesignated as Caprinae, a subfamily of Bovidae. That aside, SIX of the seven “kinds” listed separately in Emzara's Kitchen belong to the bovid holobaramin—according to Answers in Genesis' own publications!

It was irritating to me as a believing employee, and is now maddening to me now that I accept evolution, that WHEN ANSWERS IN GENESIS IS CONTROLLING THE NARRATIVE, THEY CANNOT GET THEIR OWN FACTS STRAIGHT!!! I have listened to numerous conversations and debates between YEC personalities and critics of Young Earth Creationism, and one of the most common challenges at which Creationists always fail is to define a kind. Let this prove that Creationists have no idea what they're talking about when they refer to a “created kind”. They have 100% control over the material at the Ark Encounter, but they managed to massively screw this up. It's no wonder no one takes them seriously in the scientific community.



  1. Answers in Genesis: “Baraminology”
  2. Wikipedia: “Ruminant”
  3. Janis, C., K. Scott. The Interrelationships of Higher Ruminant Families with Special Emphasis on the Members of the Cervoidea. American Museum Novitates. 2893: 1-85. 1987. http://digitallibrary.amnh.org/dspace/handle/2246/5180. Even if the different types of horns were distinct, I reasoned that there was enough time and initial genetic variation to product antlers, horns, ossicones, and pronghorns.
  4. Genesis 7:2.
  5. Kashrut: “Giraffe”
  6. CreationWiki: “Baraminology”
  7. Lightner, J. Mammalian Ark Kinds. 31 Oct. 2012, https://answersingenesis.org/creation-science/baraminology/mammalian-ark-kinds/.
  8. Wikipedia: “Antelope”
  9. Woodmorappe, J. Chapter 5 How Could Noah Fit the Animals on the Ark and Care for Them?. 15 Oct. 2013, https://answersingenesis.org/noahs-ark/how-could-noah-fit-the-animals-on-the-ark-and-care-for-them/.

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