10 Recently Extinct Game Animals

Huntress with professional hinter in the wildernes
Niels Busch/Getty Images
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These Deer, Elephants, Bears and Hippos Went Extinct in Historical Times

Huntress with professional hinter in the wildernes
Niels Busch/Getty Images

Ten thousand--or even two hundred--years ago, hunting wild animals was necessary for the survival of the human species; it's only recently that wild game hunting has become more of a sport than a burdensome chore, with deleterious consequences for the world's wildlife. Here are 10 deer, elephants, hippos and bears that have gone extinct since the last Ice Age, in descending order of disappearance. (See also ​100 Recently Extinct Animals and Why Do Animals Go Extinct?)

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Recently Extinct Game Animal #1 - Schomburgk's Deer

schomburgk's deer
Schomburgk's Deer. FunkMonk/Wikimedia Commons/CC 2.0

You wouldn't know it from its name, but Schomburgk's Deer (Rucervus schomburgki) was actually native to Thailand (Robert H. Schomburgk was the British consul to Bangkok in the mid-1860's). This deer was doomed by its natural habitat: during monsoon season, the small herds had no choice but to gather on high promontories, where they were easily picked off by hunters (it also didn't help that rice paddies encroached on this deer's grasslands and swamplands). The last known Schomburgk's Deer was spotted in 1938, though some naturalists hold out hope that isolated populations still exist in Thai backwaters.

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Recently Extinct Game Animal #2 - The Pyrenean Ibex

pyrenean ibex
The Pyrenean Ibex (Wikimedia Commons).

A subspecies of the Spanish Ibex, Capra pyrenaica, the Pyrenean Ibex has the unusual distinction of having gone extinct not once, but twice. The last known individual in the wild, a female, died in 2000, but her DNA was used to clone a baby Pyrenean Ibex in 2009--which unfortunately died after only seven minutes. Hopefully, whatever scientists learned from this failed attempt at de-extinction can be used to preserve the two extant Spanish Ibex species, the Western Spanish Ibex (Capra pyrenaica victoriae) and the Southeastern Spanish Ibex (Capra pyrenaica hispanica).

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Recently Extinct Game Animal #3 - The Eastern Elk

eastern elk
The Eastern Elk. John James Audubon

One of the largest cervids of North America, the Eastern Elk (Cervus canadensis canadensis) was characterized by its enormous bulls, which weighed up to half a ton, measured up to five feet tall at the shoulder, and wielded impressive, multi-pronged, six-foot-long horns. The last known Eastern Elk was shot in 1877, in Pennsylvania, and this subspecies was declared extinct by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1880. Like the Pyrenean Ibex (previous slide), the Eastern Elk is survived by other Cervus canadensis subspecies, including the Roosevelt Elk, the Manitoban Elk, and the Rocky Mountain Elk.

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Recently Extinct Game Animal #4 - The Atlas Bear

atlas bear
The Atlas Bear. Wikimedia Commons

If any game animal has suffered at the hands of human civilization, it's the Atlas Bear, Ursus arctos crowtheri. Starting around the 2nd century A.D., this northern African bear was relentlessly hunted and trapped by Roman colonists, whence it was set loose in various amphitheaters either to massacre convicted criminals or to be massacred itself by mounted nobles armed with spears. Amazingly, despite these depredations, populations of the Atlas Bear managed to survive into the late 19th century, until the last known individual was shot in Morocco's Rif Mountains.

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Recently Extinct Game Animal #5 - The Bluebuck

bluebuck
The Bluebuck. Wikimedia Commons

The Bluebuck, Hippotragus leucophagus, has the unfortunate distinction of being the first African game mammal to be hunted to extinction in historical times. To be fair, though, this antelope was already in deep trouble before European settlers arrived on the scene; 10,000 years of climate change had restricted it to a thousand square miles of grassland, whereas previously it could be found all over southern Africa. (The Bluebuck wasn't really blue; this was an optical illusion caused by its intermingled black and yellow fur.) The last known Bluebuck was shot around 1800, and this species hasn't been glimpsed since.

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Recently Extinct Game Animal #6 - The Auroch

auroch
The Auroch. Wikimedia Commons

You can quibble about whether or not the Auroch--the ancestor of the modern cow--was technically a game animal, though presumably that distinction didn't matter to hunters faced with a raging, one-ton bull desperate to defend its territory. The Auroch, Bos primigenius, has been commemorated in numerous cave paintings, and isolated populations managed to survive until the early 17th century (the last documented Auroch, a female, died in a Polish forest in 1627). It may yet be possible to "de-breed" modern cattle into something resembling their Auroch ancestors, though it's unclear whether these would technically count as true Aurochs!

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Recently Extinct Game Animal #7 - The Syrian Elephant

syrian elephant
The Syrian Elephant. Wikimedia Commons

An offshoot of the Asian Elephant, the Syrian Elephant (Elephas maximus asurus) was prized both for its ivory and for its use in ancient warfare (no less a personage than Hannibal was said to have owned a war elephant named "Surus," or Syria, though whether this was a Syrian Elephant or an Indian Elephant is open to debate). After flourishing in the Middle East for nearly three million years, the Syrian Elephant disappeared around 100 B.C., not coincidentally around the time that the Syrian ivory trade reached its peak. (By the way, the Syrian Elephant went extinct nearly contemporaneously with the North African Elephant, genus Loxodonta.)  

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Recently Extinct Game Animal #8 - The Irish Elk

irish elk
The Irish Elk. Charles R. Knight

The giant elk genus Megaloceros comprised nine separate species, of which the Irish Elk (Megaloceros giganteus) was the biggest, some males weighing as much as three-quarters of a ton. Based on the fossil evidence, the Irish Elk seems to have gone extinct around 7,700 years ago, likely at the hands of early European settlers who coveted this cervid for its meat and fur. It's also possible--though far from proven--that the enormous, 100-pound branched horns of Irish Elk males were a "maladaptation" that hastened their journey toward extinction (after all, how fast can you run through dense underbrush if your horns are constantly getting in the way?)  

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Recently Extinct Game Animal #9 - The Cyprus Dwarf Hippopotamus

cyprus dwarf hippopotamus
The Cyprus Dwarf Hippopotamus. Wikimedia Commons

"Insular dwarfism"--the tendency for plus-sized animals to evolve to smaller sizes in island habitats--is a common motif in evolution. Exhibit A is the Cyprus Dwarf Hippopotamus, which measured four or five feet from head to tail and weighed a few hundred pounds. As you might expect, such a toothsome, tasty, bite-sized hippo couldn't expect to coexist for long with the early human settlers of Cyprus, who hunted Hippopotamus minor to extinction about 10,000 years ago. (The same fate was experienced by the Dwarf Elephant, which also lived on the islands dotting the Mediterranean Sea.)

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Recently Extinct Game Animal #10 - The Stag-Moose

stag-moose
The Stag-moose. Wikimedia Commons

Here's an interesting fact about the Stag-Moose, Cervalces scotti: the first known fossil specimen of this cervid was discovered in 1805 by William Clark, of Lewis & Clark fame. And here's an unfortunate fact about the Stag-Moose: this 1,000-pound, ornately antlered deer was hunted to extinction about 10,000 years ago, after first suffering numerous incursions into its natural habitat. In fact, the Stag-Moose (and the Irish Elk, above) were only two of the dozens of megafauna mammal genera to go extinct shortly after the last Ice Age, to be replaced (if at all) by their slimmed-down descendants of the modern era.

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Strauss, Bob. "10 Recently Extinct Game Animals." ThoughtCo, Apr. 20, 2017, thoughtco.com/recently-extinct-game-animals-1093351. Strauss, Bob. (2017, April 20). 10 Recently Extinct Game Animals. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/recently-extinct-game-animals-1093351 Strauss, Bob. "10 Recently Extinct Game Animals." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/recently-extinct-game-animals-1093351 (accessed May 25, 2018).