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Elasmotherium (“Thin Plate Beast”), also known as the Siberian Unicorn is an extinct genus of rhinoceros endemic to Eurasia during the Late Pliocene through the Pleistocene, documented from 2.6 Ma to as late as 29,000 years ago in the Late Pleistocene.

Three species are recognised. The best known, E. sibiricum, was the size of a mammoth and is thought to have borne a large, thick horn on its forehead. Theories about the function of this horn include defence, attracting mates, driving away competitors, sweeping snow from the grass in winter and digging for water and plant roots. Like all rhinoceroses, elasmotheres were herbivorous. Unlike any others, its high-crowned molars were ever-growing. Its legs were longer than those of other rhinos and were adapted for galloping, giving it a horse-like gait.

Scientific classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Infraclass: Eutheria
  • Order: Perissodactyla
  • Suborder: Ceratomorpha
  • Superfamily: Rhinocerotoidea
  • Family: Rhinocerotidae
  • Subfamily: Elasmotheriinae
  • Tribe: Elasmotheriini
  • Genus: Elasmotherium


Herbivores can be divided into two general groups on the basis of nutrition, which grade into each other morphologically: “fore-gut fermenter” and “hind-gut fermenter.” The border region is correlated to bulk: up to 600 kilograms (1,300 lb) – 1,200 kilograms (2,600 lb) are the former; over it, the latter. In fore-gut fermentation the animal must “browse” to select the most nutritious plants and then ruminate to make up for the shorter digestive tract. The hind-gut fermenter is a “bulk-feeder:” they ingest large quantities of low-nutrient food, which they process for a longer time in a much longer intestine.


Elasmotherium is a giant rhinoceros which lived approximately 2 million all the way to 10,000 years ago – from the Pleistocene, all the way through the Modern Period. It was first discovered during the early 18th century in Russia and was subsequently described and named by Johann Fischer von Waldheim in 1808. It was given the name Elasmotherium – a name which means “plated beast.”

Different Elasmotherium pictures show this mammal in very different ways. Some pictures show it as a hairless rhinoceros, others show it as being covered in a thick coat of fur. While paleontologists aren’t completely sure at the moment, it is believed that this mammal did have a coat of fur to keep it warm.


Elasmotherium is the largest species of rhinoceroses that lived from Pliocene till Pleistocene. It reached 6 meters in lengths and 2.5 meters in heights, and weighed up to 5 tons. Its main distinction from other rhinoceroses was a large dome-like protuberance on its forehead, probably with an over 1.5-meter long thick horn. Elasmotheria were widespread on the territory from Western Europe to Eastern Siberia.


  • Lived from the Pleistocene through the Modern Period
  • Lived in Eurasia
  • Also known as the Steppe Rhinoceros and the Giant Siberian Unicorn
  • May have been the origin of the unicorn myth
  • Horn may have been as long as a human male is tall
  • Twice as long as a black rhinoceros
  • Weighed as much as a hippo
  • Was an herbivore

Elasmotherium images

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