Siberian Unicorn

Siberian Unicorn

Countless legends tell of the origins of the unicorn, but which ones are true ? For example, the presence of the Unicorn is mentioned in the Bible. It is a reality, but is it the magnificent white equine that we all know ? Some sources such as the historian Ctesias in the 5th century BC describe an animal with a single horn with a heavy and massive body. What type of creature it is ? The answer could be the Siberian Unicorn : we will explore this amazing animal in this article !

1) The Siberian Unicorn : A Dinosaur Unicorn ?

It has long been thought that the Siberian Unicorn became extinct 200,000 to 100,000 years ago. Resembling a giant rhinoceros, it is now known that this creature lived for about 2 million years until 10,000 years ago - from the Pleistocene to modern times. This is known from the dating of the fossil bones, but it is not known how and why the species became extinct. So it could almost be called a "unicorn dino" !

This legendary animal was noticed at the beginning of the 18th century in Russia, then it was described and nominated by Johann Fischer von Waldheim in 1808. It was given the name Elasmotherium - a name that means "plated beast" ! Today only five species of rhinoceros remain, but at different times in the past there were as many as 250 different ones. One of the most impressive of these was of course the Siberian unicorn !

Unicorn of Siberia

For those who study the fauna of the last ice age, one of the most significant events of this period was the extinction of the megafauna. It saw the disappearance of many large emblematic species such as the woolly mammoth, the Irish elk and the sabre-toothed tiger.

Professor Adrian Lister, a researcher at the museum, says : "This megafauna only really began to disappear about 40,000 years ago. Elasmotherium, whose apparent extinction date dates back 100,000 years, was therefore not considered to be part of that same event. However, in recent years, there have been indications that this extinction date may be wrong. We have found a couple of specimens that have been dated. Like the magnificent complete skeleton skull that we now have in the museum. And what is extraordinary is that they are less than 40,000 years old," says Adrian.

Various theories on the morphology, nutrition and habits of Siberian unicorns have led to wide variations in its reconstitution. The use of the horn, whether or not there is one, and its size have been subjects of questioning. The statistical correlations of modern paleontology have eliminated much of the speculation on the subject, although some details remain undetermined.

Unicorn Siberian

Different pictures of the Siberian unicorn show this mammal in a very different way. Some pictures show it as a hairless rhinoceros, others show it covered with a thick coat. Although palaeontologists are not completely sure at the moment, it is thought that this mammal had a fur coat to keep it warm.

One of the most interesting facts about the Siberian unicorn is that this animal has several names. Although its official and scientific name is Elasmotherium, it has also been known as the giant rhino, steppe rhino and Siberian giant rhino. It was a mammal that was related to the woolly rhinoceros, also known as Coelodonta.

These animals were over 6 metres long and weighed about 4 tons. It was therefore a real giant unicorn from the Ice Age, weighing up to twice as much as a modern rhino ! Amazing fact : despite its massive size and prominent shoulder hump, it is thought that the Siberian unicorn was actually suitable for the 💨 speed race !

Elasmotherium

They ran on all fours and had a huge horn on their nose ! This horn was made of keratin (the same as human hair). Paleontologists believe that this horn was not used for protection, but to attract companions. Despite this, scientists believe that this horn could reach a length of 1.5 to 2 meters ! 😲

Siberian Unicorns are part of the infra-order of the "Ceratomorpha". They are so called because their families, like the Rhinocerotides, of which Elasmotherium is a part, are characterized by the presence of hooves, or horns and hooves, made of keratin, the same substance that makes up hair. These keratin structures seem to have been formed in the Mesozoic, a remnant in man being the nails.

A keratin horn must be distinguished from a bone horn and a tusk. Bone forms the basis of most horns, but in some cases the horn is made entirely of bone. A tusk is a modified canine or incisor. Rhinocerotides had tusks, but the Siberian unicorn did not. Two questions remain unanswered : where they horned or hornless, hairy or hairless ? Most rhinos have and have had horns, but there are a few cases without horns and most are or were hairy, like the woolly rhinoceros.

Unicorn Dinosaur

Elasmotherium was a herbivore, so it lived off the plant matter of its time, a bit like an elephant. Its anatomy suggested that it lived in fairly open grassy plains, grazing almost entirely in grass. Its unusual teeth seem to be very well adapted to this type of grazing as well. He probably travelled long distances to enjoy the different grasses. It could have moved in herds to protect itself from predators that may have been present at the time.

One proof that the Siberian unicorn was a grazer is the evidence of tooth wear and morphology. Like all rhinocerotidae, the Siberian unicorn had evolved cheek teeth for herbivory : two premolars and three molars (originally taken for five molars), no incisors, no canines. Where some animals kept the incisors as tusks, the Siberian unicorn had instead a spoon-shaped symphysis, or tip, of the lower mandible and a rostrum, or beak, of the upper mandible, which served as a bony base for a gripping and tearing mechanism of the labial soft tissues. Grass, a very hard fibrous material, contains phytolites, microscopic granules mainly of silica, which act like sandpaper on the molars of grazers. Their cheek teeth have therefore evolved with large crowns (hypsodontics). There seems to be a correlation between grazing and hypsodontia.

In terms of their behaviour, it is probably similar to that of present-day rhinos, which tend to be rather solitary and scattered in their habitat.

Unicorn Siberia Reconstitution

2) The Last Unicorn with Prehistoric Man ?

This natural rarity may have been one of the factors that led to the Siberian unicorn's disappearance. It happened around the same time as the Neanderthals became extinct, and some time before cave bears and spotted hyenas were last seen in Europe.

This means that these animals would have shared Eurasia with modern and Neanderthal man, but it is unlikely that they were hunted to extinction. Moreover, there is no evidence that people had anything to do with it. It cannot be excluded, but there is no archaeological association of this creature with people in any way at any of the sites known so far.

On the contrary, it is much more likely that their extinction was the result of the spectacular climatic fluctuations that occurred during this period, associated with the grazing way of life and the low number of individuals. The environment in which the animal lived seems to have changed considerably at the time of its extinction. It is therefore quite plausible that if it had been a rare animal to begin with, it would have been relatively threatened with extinction.

Fossil Unicorn Siberia

DNA from some of the Siberian unicorn fossils was extracted by Australian researchers: this was the first time that Elasmotherium DNA was found. This helped to advance the question of the place of the Siberian unicorn, and all other members of the same genus, in the evolutionary tree of the rhinoceros.

It turns out that the ancient group split off from the modern group of rhinos about 43 million years ago. This means that the Siberian unicorn was the last species of a very special and ancient lineage when it became extinct in the Eurasian plains.

This rhinoceros finally became extinct during the last ice age, about 10,000 years ago. This means that it was probably well known to the settlers of Eurasia at that time. It was also probably the basis of the Unicorn Mythology, which persisted for thousands of years.

Rhinoceros Unicorn
Stories of mythical one-horned creatures can be found throughout Russian literature, and later in Indian and Persian literature. These stories were then probably imported to Europe, either by oral tradition or by itinerant monks, where they were transformed into the unicorn stories we know today.

Join the Young Unicorn Movement !

You now know a little more about the famous Siberian Unicorn, which is probably the very first creature called unicorn, and probably the origin of the White Unicorn that we will know later ! With this cultural baggage in your pocket, you will now have more credibility when you talk about the magic horse, and you will be able to prove that the unicorn exists !

But it's not all about acquiring knowledge : to spread the most magical trend of all time, you have to become a real unicorn ! And there is no better way to do this than to disguise yourself as a unicorn. So get yourself the most comfortable, magical, softest of clothes, the unicorn pajama !


Madison Keys

As a writer by trade and passionate about the unicorn, I like to share my knowledge and offer advice to all those new to the field.


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