Legendary mammoth-sized one-horned beasts

The famous Siberian unicorn from myths and legends

Elasmotherium is an extinct type of large rhinoceros also known as Siberian unicorn. According to some preliminary data we have, these huge animals reached 2 meters in height and weighed 4 tons. They inhabited Eurasia during the late Pliocene and Pleistocene.

Their fossils date back to 29,000 years ago, though they lived as long as 2,6 million years ago.

The name Elasmotherium was first brought about in 1808 by Johan Fisher von Waldheim. He was the head of the Museum of Natural History in Moscow University.

In March 2016, archeologists discovered a perfectly preserved skull in Pavlodar, Kazakhstan. The size of the skull shows that it used to be an old male, whose cause of death is unknown.

The most remarkable feature of these animals is their extremely big horn. There are many theories about the use of the huge, thick horn: for protection, to attract the comrades, fight the enemies, to dig water and the land, etc.

The frontal bone of the skull caught the attention of paleontologists in the 19th century. It became the main evidence of the existence of Siberian unicorns. Research ha also shown that the horn was not round. The wounds on the fossils prove, that males used to fight each other with their horns, and this evidence support this theory.

As a result of territorial conflicts between males, their natural habitat extended from river Don to the east of today’s Kazakhstan. The existing data shows that the ancestors of today’s rhinoceros lived in the West Siberian plain for a long time.

However, the cause of their complete extinction is still unclear. Researchers bring about several environmental factors that could have led to the disappearance of this species  and that threaten other species in present.

Legends about a unicorn or a one-horn beast were popular in China and Eastern Europe for millennia. They described a huge creature with one horn – a real beast.

Vasily Radlov found out the legend of a “huge black bull” that was killed with a spear near Siberia in 1866. Locals described the creature as a monster with one horn that looked like a white or blue bull.

This creature appears in various religious texts as a symbol, and not a real living being.

All these myths “prove” the existence of this creature. However, additional research on the fossils is important to determine whether they did exist or not.

What do you know about this species?

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