Unicorns Were Real — And They Went Extinct Way Later Than We Originally Thought

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The unicorn wasn't a mythical creature, and a skull of the animal recently found in the Pavlodar region of Kazakhstan is shedding new light on how long ago it roamed the Earth. The Siberian unicorn, known as the Elasmotherium sibiricum, died out approximately 29,000 years ago, according to a study published in the American Journal of Applied Sciences

Elasmotherium sibiricum was originally thought to have become extinct about 350,000 years ago, and may have even crossed paths with humans. According to the Mother Nature Network, humans began spreading across Asia more than 50,000 years ago and could have ended up in Siberia around 35,000 years ago. In fact, actual sightings of the animal could be the reason behind the myth of the unicorn. 

"Most likely, the south of Western Siberia was a refugium, where this rhino persevered the longest in comparison with the rest of its range," Andrey Shpanski, one of the researchers that discovered the skull, told Phys.org. "There is another possibility that it could migrate and dwell for a while in the more southern areas." 

Read more: 8 Amazingly Weird-Ass Animals You Never Knew Existed

First published restoration (1878) of E. sibiricum, by Rashevsky, under supervision of A.F. BrantSource: Wikipedia
First published restoration (1878) of E. sibiricum, by Rashevsky, under supervision of A.F. Brant  Wikipedia

Although the Siberian unicorn was discovered decades ago, early description of the creature describe the animal as more closely related to the rhinoceros than what we typically imagine unicorns to look like. According to Science Alert, the Siberian unicorn was about 6 feet 6 inches tall and weighed somewhere around 8,000 pounds. 

"Our research makes adjustments in the understanding of the environmental conditions in the geologic time in general," Shpanski told Phys.org. "Understanding of the past allows us to make more accurate predictions about natural processes in the near future — it also concerns climate change."