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Extinct Giant Siberian Unicorn Facts

Exhibit in Natural History Museum

Exhibit in Natural History Museum

What Did it Look Like?

The Giant Siberian Unicorn, also known by its scientific name, Elasmotherium, (E. sibiricum) is an extinct species of giant rhinoceros that had an extremely large horn on its forehead and a body covered in shaggy fur. It was first named by Johan Fisher von Waldheim in 1808. He was the director of the Natural History Museum in Moscow.

The Giant Siberian Unicorn was about the size of a mammoth however, early reports say this beast weighed up to 4 tonnes, stood at 6.5 feet tall and, was about 14.76 feet long. It’s been debated on if this animal would gallop like a horse or would walk hunched over with his head to the ground like a bison. The beast's front feet were larger than the rear and it had just three digits.

It’s also debated on whether or not it had a giant horn on its head or not, most experts believe it did as there is reasonable evidence of it having a horn based on the skulls they have found. The skulls had a protuberance that suggested it was the base of a large horn. The use of this horn could have been to dig for food, attract mates, and for self-defense. It’s believed their horns and hooves were made of keratin if the horns did exist.

Where and When Did it Live?

The Giant Siberian Unicorn lived in the Eurasia region during the late Pliocene and Pleistocene periods. Giant Rhinos have been documented from as late as 2.6 million years ago. A skull was found in 2016 that was perfectly preserved and was of a very old male. The skull was found in the Pavlodar region of Kazakhstan and proved these animals died out just 29,000 years ago. Previously it was believed they died out around 350,000 years ago, this means they were around when early humans were alive.

What Did it Eat?

From looking at their teeth, it’s believed the Siberian Unicorns were herbivores with a diet of grass, plant bulbs, and tubers. They think this creature could have used its horn to dig up plant bulbs and tubers to eat while also grazing on grass. Weighing four tons means it would have to eat a lot, so it’s thought they would travel miles just grazing and digging up plants to eat.

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How Did They Die?

It’s still unclear what caused the death of these beautiful giants. Little evidence has shown us how they died out however, scientists believe it could have been environmental factors that resulted in their extinction. Others believe it could have died out due to having such a restricted diet or being a “picky eater”. After the Ice Age ended, the grasslands began to shrink causing fewer areas for the giant rhino to eat. Human hunting might have also had a hand in its extinction.

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Comments

Ann Carr from SW England on February 12, 2021:

Interesting creature! It looks like a rhinoceros but definitely has a unicorn. Thanks for the education.

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