What Became of the Mammoth-Sized One-Horned Beasts of Legend? The Last of the Siberian Unicorns
A kind of extinct rhino known as Elasmotherium also goes by the names Giant Siberian Unicorn and Giant Rhinoceros. It inhabited the Eurasian area throughout the Late Pliocene and Pleistocene ages.
The new fossils were discovered roughly 29,000 years ago, whereas they were discovered 2.6 million years ago.
The holotype of Elasmotherium sibiricum, the “Moscow mandible.”
The E. Sibiricum, the most well-known of these species, was the size of a mammoth, covered in hair, and was said to have had a big horn sticking out of its forehead, thus the name “Siberian Unicorn.” Early accounts stated that the beast was roughly 4.5 meters long, 2 meters tall, and weighed 4 tonnes.
The Siberian Unicorn’s Tale: An Interpretation
Johan Fischer von Waldheim, the Director Permanent of the University of Moscow’s Museum of Natural History, gave the genus Elasmotherium its initial name in 1808.
The lower jaw, which Yekaterina Romanovna Vorontsova-Dashkova had contributed to the museum, was all he had to support his claim. But from this, the species was identified and additional research was done on it.
Instead of the widely held idea that the species had died out 350,000 years ago, a superbly preserved skull was discovered in the Pavlodar area of Kazakhstan in March 2016. This discovery shows that the animal lasted until the Pleistocene epoch, or around 29,000 years ago.
It has been hypothesized that the skull was from a very old man based on its size and condition, however it is unknown how the creature perished.
Due to the vast range in reconstructions, several hypotheses have emerged on the Siberian unicorn’s appearance as well as its diet and lifestyle. Some depict the creature running like a horse, some with its head down like a bison, and yet others submerged in a marsh like a hippo.
Heinrich Harder’s “Elasmotherium,” from about 1920.
Discussion on the Horn and Extinction of the Siberian Unicorn
The existence, size, and purpose of the horn, as well as other related questions, are hotly contested topics. Theories about how the horn works include protection, luring mates, scaring off rivals, clearing snow off the grass, and digging for water and plant roots.
The animals, like contemporary rhinos, were herbivores, thus their horns could not have been utilized to attack or kill prey. To determine if the beast had horns or not and whether it had hair or not, only circumstantial evidence from few specimens is available.
The monster may have had hair covering its body, similar to the more well-known woolly mammoth, according to some research.
Elasmotherium fossil is on view in the Natural History Museum in London.
The frontal protuberance on the skull, which drew the attention of paleontologists in the 19th century and was quickly interpreted as the basis for a horn, is the primary indication that the Siberian unicorn was, in fact, horned. Furthermore, the horn would not have been round, according to the evidence.
A fossil that has a non-circular, partially healed puncture wound at the base that was typically explained as the consequence of a horn duel between two males supports this theory.
Males would have engaged in territorial conflict, although their habitat extended from the Don River to the east of contemporary Kazakhstan. These ancient rhinos lived for a very long time in the southeast of the West Siberian Plain, according to residue discoveries.
However, it remains unclear why the last of the Siberian unicorns perished. In order to find solutions to the current crisis of species extinction, researchers have been examining the precise environmental conditions that may have contributed to the demise of this species.
The fabled unicorn
Chinese and Eastern European cultures have long held tales about unicorns and other animals having a single horn. Turkish and Mongolic languages and traditions were used to interpret the Chinese term “K’i-lin,” which denoted a particular beast.
Although the authors in all these languages lacked the vocabulary to adequately describe the beast, the single horn and their enormous height were a unifying denominator.
An Elasmotherium-like animal is shown on a bronze cup from the Warring States era, with its head down for grazing, horn protruding from its forehead, and its head and shoulders depressed.
Vasily Radlov discovered a myth about a “great black bull” being killed by a single spear among the Yakuts of Siberia in 1866. The creature’s lone horn was rumored to be so big that it needed to be pulled around on a sled. A big white or blue woolly bull with one large horn growing from its forehead is the subject of several stories that are common in this area.
A collection of songs with Christian overtones that originated in Zoroastrianism, “Golubinaia kniga” or “The Book of the Dove,” may be found in medieval Northern Russia. In these songs, a truthful unicorn fights a lion that stands in for falsehoods.
These stories’ unicorn was said to be the mother and father of all creatures and to reside on a holy mountain. By using its horn to create freshwater springs, this animal prevented a global drought. It roamed the plains at night, carving a route with that same horn.
Tapestry from the 15th century, “Maiden with Unicorn,” Musée de Cluny, Paris.
Similar creatures do exist in other religious writings, although they are often viewed more as symbols than as actual beings. In reality, the Arabo-Persian term for a unicorn and a rhinoceros are interchangeable, with the rhinoceros being viewed as a bringer of truth and good to the world. The solitary horn is viewed as a symbol of monotheism in Christianity.
While legend may suggest that this creature exists, this is only speculative evidence. Before we can be certain about the appearance of this creature and whether or not unicorns existed, additional investigation and fossil discoveries are required.