Restoration of E. sibiricum

Elasmotherium ("thin plate beast") is a genus of giant rhinoceros that was native to the Pliocene and Pleistocene periods of Eurasia.


Elasmotherium would have looked much like modern rhinos, except for an extremely large horn (measuring possibly 2 meters or more in length[1]) and thick, shaggy fur. The largest species had a shoulder height of 2 meters and a total length of 5 meters, making it one of the largest rhinoceroses to have ever lived.[2]


Hundreds of Elasmotherium specimens have been discovered. They are divided into three species based on differences in the skull and teeth: E. sibiricum, E. caucasicum, and E. chaprovicum.[3]


Elasmotherium sibiricum, the type species, was described by Johann Fischer von Waldheim of Moscow University in 1808. He named it from a single lower jaw that was donated to a charity.[4]



Elasmotherium was a grazer, and moved long distance to eat grass of different regions and growth stages.[5]


Because of its dietary habits, Elasmotherium most likely lived out in the open on grasslands or plains in order to take advantage of the food that was present.[6]

In popular cultureEdit

Prehistoric Park Elasmotherium

Elasmotherium as seen in Prehistoric Park

Elasmotherium only went extinct in the Late Pleistocene, some time during the last ice age, and it is likely that humans encountered the animal. Various myths and legends from across Eurasia feature a unicorn-like creature with a single horn, and some scientists have speculated that these creatures were in fact living examples of Elasmotherium.[7]

In more recent years, Elasmotherium appeared in an episode of the BBC television series Prehistoric Park.


  1. Kurtén, Björn (1968). The age of dinosaurs. New York: McGraw-Hill. p. 232.
  2. Zhegallo, V.; Kalandadze, N.; Shapovalov, A.; Bessudnova, Z.; Noskova, N.; Tesakova, E. (2005). "On the fossil rhinoceros Elasmotherium (including the collections of the Russian Academy of Sciences)". Cranium 22 (1): 17–40.
  3. Titov, V.V. (2008). Late Pliocene large mammals from Northeastern Sea of Azov Region (in Russian with English translations). Rostov-on-Don: SSC RAS Publishing.
  4. Fischer, G. (1809). "21. Sur L'Elasmotherium et le Trogontothérium". Memoires de la Société Impériale des Naturalistes de Moscou. Tome II. Moscou: Imprimerie de l'Université Impériale. p. 255.
  5. van der Made, Jan; Grube, René (2010). "The rhinoceroses from Neumark-Nord and their nutrition". In Meller, Harald (in German with English translations). Elefantenreich – Eine Fossilwelt in Europa. Halle/Saale. pp. 382–394.
  6. Mendoza, M.; Palmqvist, P. (February 2008). "Hypsodonty in ungulates: an adaptation for grass consumption or for foraging in open habitat?". Journal of Zoology 273 (2): 134–142. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.2007.00365.x.
  7. Glavin, Terry (2007). The Sixth Extinction (First U.S. ed.). New York: Thomas Dunne Books (St. Martin's Press). pp. 129–130.