Woolly Rhinoceros

Category: Dinosaur

The Woolly Rhinoceros lived from three and a half million years ago up until about 10,000 years ago, and was depicted by early humans in cave paintings. Unlike most rhinos of today, it was covered in shaggy fur to protect it from the harsh cold climate it lived in.

Woolly Rhinoceros

Woolly Rhinoceros

Genera and Species

Classification:
Mammalia, Perissodactyla, Rhinocerotidae.

Genus:
Coelodonta (“Hollow tooth”)

Species:
C. antiquitatis

Characteristics

Coelodonta is similar in appearance to the modern rhinos of today, with the exception of its hairy coat. It was slightly larger than the white rhinoceros, around 12 feet in length and weighing up to 6,000 lbs. It had two long nose horns, the larger of which could grow up to two feet in length. The bones of its spinal column feature large dorsal spines which indicate that it had a large humped back.

Cave paintings show that these rhinos may have been darker in coloration around their mid-section. Their horns are also thinner and more blade-like than those of present day rhinos, and featured a banded pattern along their length.

Size

LENGTH: 3.8 m (12.5 ft).
WEIGHT: 2,700 kg (6,000 lbs).

Behavior

Woolly rhinos probably used their horns like rhinos of today, for defense and display. The diet of Coelodonta was long a subject of debate, but recent analysis of well-preserved specimens show it probably grazed on plants at or near ground level.

History of Discovery

The first remains of Coelodonta were discovered in the 1800s, but much of what is known about its appearance aside from its skeleton came from ancient cave paintings such as the Chauvet Cave in France, until a mummified specimen was eventually discovered. Since then many preserved rhinos have been found, which gives scientists a better idea of what the animal looked like in life.

Since a rhino’s horn is not made of bone, it does not preserve well in the fossil record. However, frozen mummified specimens often have the horns preserved. Isolated horns have also been found, and were long believed to be the talons of mythical birds.

Paleoenvironment

Woolly rhinos lived in Northern Europe in a very cold, dry environment alongside mammoths and early humans, who likely hunted them. Hunting by humans, as well as the warming of the planet, likely led to the creature’s demise.

References

  1. Donald Prothero (2017). The Princeton Field Guide to Prehistoric Mammals. Princeton, New Jersey: University Press Princeton.
  2. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/tetrapod-zoology/the-remarkable-life-appearance-of-the-woolly-rhino/
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woolly_rhinoceros