Scientists Have Found Fossils That Prove Unicorns Existed – But They Were Actually Pretty Terrifying
Unicorns are not just the rainbow colored, plastic haired, creatures that we know them as from cartoons.The mythical creatures are actually closely associated with Greek mythology, and some even suspect that these were once real live animals from India. Now, there is more proof than ever to justify this claim.
Greek historian Ctesias, gave the first account in the 5th century B.C., of the possible unicorn by describing the creatures as wild horses with long horns. Pliny the Elder, from 1st century A.D.; describes “the head of the stag, the feet of the elephant and the tail of the boar, while the rest of the body is like that of the horse.” Some believe the Bible contains references to unicorns, however, many scholars believe that this was just referring to a certain breed of an ox that existed at the time.
However, with the most recent discovery, many believe the ox theory can be put to rest.
In medieval times, unicorn horns were believed to contain a magic substance called “alicorn.” The horns were believed to have magical properties capable of neutralizing poison and curing mental and physical diseases. The Vikings at the time also traded narwhal horns from the Arctic Ocean which were sold as whale tusks or sometimes even unicorn horns of the sea.
With real-life animals having similar features to these mythical creatures, it’s not hard to imagine why so many people are adamant that at one point, unicorns roamed the lands.
Other real animals that may have inspired the unicorn myth are the oryx, eland, and auroch which were all known to be one or two horned animals throughout time. Indian rhinoceros above all other real animals, have researchers and scientists believing that they could possibly be the true origins of the mythical unicorn.
Then, In 1808 a newly discovered species called the Elasmotherium was named by Gotthelf Fischer von Waldheim, director of the Natural History Museum at Moscow State University. Previously, the Elasmotherium had only been identified by fossils and was believed to have been extinct for 350,000 years. But there is something about this miraculous finding that experts and unicorn lovers alike think may lead to some possible traces of a real-life unicorn.
Scientists, after researching the findings, think that the Elasmotherium must have had a single horn just like a unicorn. “The whole analogy with the rhinoceros points with the greatest certainty to the previous existence of a horn,” wrote Russian zoologist Alexander Brandt. “Which, to judge from the size of the blood vessels once encircling the base, must have possessed enormous dimensions.” If this creature was real, what could did it look like?
It’s suspected by many scientists that the Siberian Elasmotherium (Elasmotherium sibiricum) is the basis for the ancient myth about a unicorn-like creature. However, since the Elasmotherium was thought to have disappeared about 350,000 years ago, no humans would have even been alive to witness such an animal and there wouldn’t be anyone to tell stories about it.
Was this a dead end for the unicorn believers out there?
Then, in March 2016, the skull of an Elasmotherium was unearthed in Kazakhstan. Moreover, upon examining the remains experts and scientists now believe that the creature could have only gone extinct 29,000 years ago – and that changed things. Now there was at least a chance that the Elasmotherium could have lived amongst humans and inspired the legend of the mythical unicorn to be passed down in stories long after its true extinction.
But why do they look so different than our modern interpretation?
These beasts were nothing like the dainty white steeds with the long manes and pearly white horns that we commonly think of. The Elasmotherium was anything but small or dainty; in fact, many experts believe the creature to resemble a terrifying monster rhinoceros.
So where did the magical element come in?
This beast would have been an incredibly intimidating sight to see with it standing around six or seven feet tall, measuring 15 feet long. The Beast was most likely covered in thick matted fur like a mammoth, causing much intimidation and mysteriousness surrounding it.
Researchers believe that each of these mighty animals must have weighed at least four and a half tons. The size of the horn is still up for debate but judging from skeletons and other research findings, many guess these animals to have had horns about 6 feet long! Definitely not what comes to mind when we think of the pretty little unicorns in fairytales.
The researchers and scientists that have been studying the Elasmotherium sibiricum have determined that the animal must have roamed what is now known as Western Siberia. Similar fossil findings of the creature were also found around modern-day southwestern Russia and further south in today’s Eastern Europe.
“Most likely, the south of Western Siberia was a refugium, where this rhino persevered the longest in comparison with the rest of its range,” palaeontologist Andrey Shpanski told Phys.org. There is another possibility that it could migrate and dwell for a while in the more southern areas as well. Despite the beast’s gnarly appearance, it was believed by researchers to have been a vegetarian, causing little to no threat to humans.
Although it’s possible that humans could have had encounters with the Elasmotherium, some scientists are not sure if that actually happened. In fact, Cryptologist Willy Ley suspects the species did survive the prehistoric era. However, he thinks that accounts like the account of 10th-century traveler Ibn Fadlan, seem to describe something more along the lines of a giant rhinoceros. There is still much debate over all the various accounts and what people actually saw, but there are some consistencies.
Researchers point out all the accounts of unicorn sightings tended to match ones within regions where a similar looking animal may have once lived. On the instance of this is from an Old Turkic book contains a description of the Chinese qilin as a “quadruped with the body of a deer, the tail of a cow, the head of a sheep, the limbs of a horse, the hooves of a cow and a big horn.” This version sounding much different than the massive beast with the six-foot horn researchers found in Siberia.
Researchers, scientists, and historians alike still have foolproof answers, but new evidence is still being discovered all the time. Based on a fossilized Siberian Elasmotherium skull, is it is theorized that these creatures passed away in some sort of meteoroid impact. Some researchers say these creatures may just have been victims of environmental change, much like what we’re seeing today. Researchers are still working on an answer but one thing is still certain–unicorns will allows have a special place in many cultures around the world.