11 Of Ancient Earth’s Most Unbelievable Prehistoric Animals

Published December 2, 2021

Wooly Rhinoceros: The Furry Prehistoric Animals That Wandered Eurasia

Prehistoric Animal Woolly Rhino

Wikimedia CommonsA woolly rhino displayed in an English museum.

Everyone has heard of woolly mammoths. But what about woolly rhinoceroses?

In some ways, woolly rhinos (Coelodonta antiquitatis) looked a lot like today’s rhinos. Like contemporary rhinoceroses, they stood about six feet tall and weighed around three tons. They also had a set of two horns, one large anterior horn and one smaller one between their eyes.

But woolly rhinos differed in a couple of significant ways. For one, they had longer heads and bodies and shorter legs. Woolly rhinos also had a large hump behind the shoulder, likely to help support their horns. And, of course, they had fur — plenty of it.

Before going extinct some 14,000 years ago, the woolly rhino wandered far and wide. Its fossils have been found in Spain, Siberia, and South Korea. As such, the woolly rhino sometimes appears — though not as frequently as woolly mammoths or bison — in ancient cave paintings.

Woolly Rhino Ancient Animal

Wikimedia CommonsAncient cave paintings sometimes include depictions of the woolly rhino, like this one from the Chauvet Cave in France.

Humans and woolly rhinos likely had limited interactions, although evidence does suggest that humans sometimes hunted the prehistoric beasts. That said, scientists think that changing climate — and not overhunting — led to the woolly rhino’s extinction.

But if climate change thousands of years ago killed off the woolly rhino, then today’s climate change might revive it — in a way. Melting permafrost in Serbia has revealed a number of well-preserved Ice Age creatures, including the woolly rhino.

In 2020, locals in eastern Siberia stumbled across the frozen body of a young woolly rhino in the melting ice. The frozen earth had preserved the ancient animal’s intestines, fur, and even its horn.

So far, however, there’s no talk about trying to reproduce the woolly rhino as some want to do with the woolly mammoth. For now, we’ll have to revere these ancient animals from fossils.

After reading about these 11 ancient animals that once lived on Earth, check out some of the world’s deadliest animals. Or, look through some of the world’s ugliest animals.

Kaleena Fraga
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Kaleena Fraga has also had her work featured in The Washington Post and Gastro Obscura, and she published a book on the Seattle food scene for the Eat Like A Local series. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she earned a double degree in American History and French.