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Chill Out, Internet. "Siberian Unicorns" Are Just Rhinos

It's true. Unicorns were real, but they're not exactly the magical silvery steed we pictured. In truth, unicorns were a little more... husky.

Siberian Unicorn

Wikimedia Commons

If recent headlines had you excited about the existence of your favorite mythical beast, you're not alone. I, too, anxiously clutched my Lisa Frank notebook and hurriedly read up on the discovery of unicorns. And I, too, was disappointed that the great discovery was, in fact, some kind of cross between a capybara and a rhino—albeit one with a very large horn. Alas, unicorns as we pictured them remain in the story books.

The "Siberian unicorn" in question is actually closer to a woolly mammoth in size than it is a stallion, measuring up to 15 feet long and weighing in between 8,000 and 10,000 pounds. They likely maintained their powerful figure by eating lots and lots of grass. It's "mighty keratin-sheathed horn was likely multiple feet long," reports Forbes, making it, by definition, a unicorn. Recreations like the ones here can give you a pretty good idea what this big guy looked like at the time. It's not exactly The Last Unicorn.


Siberian Unicorn
Wikimedia Commons

In truth, we've known about the existence of Siberian unicorns—called Elasmotherium sibiricum—for years. Fossils have been found at dozens of sites all over Eurasia, leading to the previous prediction that the furry rhino-like beasts had gone extinct over 350,000 years ago. Researchers at Russia's Tomsk State University, however, recently found an Elasmotherium skull in Kazakhstan that dates back only 29,000 years. That's over 300,000 years of unaccounted survival.

While this discovery has nothing to do with the mythical steeds of lore, it will hopefully say something about the earth 30,000 years ago and the large mammals that roamed it. The Siberian unicorn may not be the unicorn we had hoped for, but it could potentially help scientists understand the relationship between a changing climate and "megafauna" like the Elasmotherium. Such discoveries could impact our knowledge of the planet—and climate—today. This unicorn many not be magic, but it is science, which is also pretty cool.

Rachel Weeks

I'm originally from the Chicagoland area, but I recently moved from beautiful Des Moines, IA to the equally beautiful Denver, CO. I spend my days reading, binge-watching TV shows, performing and listening to comedy and, of course, writing.

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