Woolly rhinoceros

Survivors of the last glacial period, the Woolly rhinoceros once roamed most of Northern Europe. Spanning from Siberia to the arid deserts that now make up Southern England the Woolly rhinoceros is thought to have become extinct around 8000 B.C. The Woolly rhinoceros roamed the lands around the same periods as the better known  Woolly Mammoth and just like the Woolly Mammoth is believed to have been targeted by Human and Neanderthal hunters.

Hunting is not the only theory behind the decline of the Woolly rhinoceros’ population however and scientists believe that climate change after the ice age may have played a part in their extinction as well as disease.

woollyrhino1 Woolly rhinoceros
An artist impression
An artist impression

Interestingly, for a long time the Woolly rhinoceros was known only from cave painting with no physical evidence to support its existence. Eventually a specimen was discovered and a very good specimen at that. The specimen was a female Woolly rhinoceros and was discovered in a tar pit in Poland. It was remarkably well preserved with only the fur and hoofs missing. This specimen is now on show at the Polish Academy of Sciences’ Museum of Natural History.

The Woolly rhinoceros was a magnificent beast and could grow to over 12ft in length and over 2 meters in height, larger than any rhino species in the world today. The Woolly rhinoceros was of a stocky build and had short powerful limbs and long dense fur. Usually the Woolly rhinoceros sported two horns, one between its eyes and one lower down at the front of its head. The lower horn was the larger of the two and could grow to 3 feet in length.

woollyrhino2 Woolly rhinoceros
An early painting of the Woolly rhinoceros
An early painting of the Woolly rhinoceros

The Woolly rhinoceros was very well adapted to its harsh habitat with powerful limbs and a dense coat to keep warm. The frontal horn its believed to have played a massive part in the rhinos life being used as not just a defensive weapon but also to attract mates and clear snow from food sources.

Its not clear whether the Woolly rhinoceros was a browser or grazer when it comes to eating habits however it is clear that the Woolly rhinoceros was a herbivore and most likely lived off of local ground fauna and grasses.

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