Weird Nature Unicorns Were Real, But They Were Also Pretty Scary  

Erin McCann
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Maybe My Little Pony and Lisa Frank were on to something all along because it turns out unicorns were real. They just don't quite look how you thought. Recent developments in the discovery of a prehistoric species of rhinoceros are now believed to be what started unicorn mythology, and with the help of the human imagination, the magical horse we know today was eventually born.

Stories of real unicorns go back to the early ages and they have since become a beloved fantasy creature in many cultures. Seen as cutesy, romantic, and the best friend of little girls everywhere, the mythology of unicorns has evolved from a symbol of purity during the Middle Ages to a magical being used to sell products to unique and ethereal people. Starbucks secret menu features a pink and purple Unicorn Frappuccino that has the ability to change colors. Shimmering rainbow hair coloring was also inspired by the mythological creatures, and even celebrities can be seen with unicorn hair. Unicorns actually existed, and here's a look at how their image went from a hairy rhinoceros cousins to a majestic creature galloping amid rainbows.

Scientists Proved 'Unicorns' Existed By Discovering Bones And Partial Skulls


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Photo: Heinrich Harder/Wikimedia Commons/PD-US

Scientists proved there were three species of Elasmotherium, finding teeth, jaws and bones in Siberia and Russia in the early 19th century and more in Asia 100 years later. The creature's name is Greek for "thin plate beast" and the skulls that have been found led scientists to believe Elasmotherium was the predecessor to the rhinoceros of today. These beasts were common throughout Eurasia and while a few complete skeletons have been unearthed, most discoveries consisted of teeth and skull fragments. The skulls featured a round dome on the forehead area where scientists believed its horn to be.

Elasmotherium Were Not At All Majestic Or Cute


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Photo: Maerten de Vos/Wikimedia Commons

Since Elasmotherium were related to rhinoceros and were believed to be covered in thick hair, they resembled mammoths more than magical horses. As herbivores they had large flat teeth and like rhinos, scientists suggest most of their weight was placed on their front legs, giving them a body structure similar to bison. According to the skeletons that have been found, they measured up to 16 feet long with a shoulder height of almost seven feet. At a possible weight of up 10,000 pounds, Elasmotherium was comparable in size to the rhinos of today. Picture that running on a rainbow.

They Are In The News Again Because Of A New Discovery


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Photo: Apokryltaros/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

Although Elasmotherium was discovered many years ago and thought to be a possible reason for the unicorn myth, a new find made that theory a lot more interesting. In 2016, researchers discovered bone fragments in what is now Kazakhstan that suggest Elasmotherium lived longer than they had previously though. Originally, scientists believed the beasts had gone extinct about 350,000 years ago, long before any human was around. Thanks to radiocarbon dating, the new findings place the age of Elasmotherium around 29,000 years ago, meaning our human ancestors may have been their neighbors. Scientists believe this new findings might suggest Elasmotherium really might have been the inspiration for unicorn legends.

The Horns Of Elasmotherium Were Not Very Spectacular


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It's believed the horn of a Elasmotherium was made of keratin, the same substance that makes up human fingernails. Unfortunately, keratin is like flesh and dissolves at a much faster rate than bone, so no actual Elasmotherium horns have been discovered. Scientists used later relatives of rhinoceros to guess at the size and shape of the Elasmotherium's horn, believing it to possibly be up to six feet long. Researchers think the horn was used to gain access to food and water by digging holes and extracting roots and other plants. It was most likely also used for self defense as well as attracting mates while competing with other males for a female's attention.