Woolly Rhino (Coelodonta)

coelodonta woolly rhino
  • Name: Woolly Rhino; also known as Coelodonta (Greek for "hollow tooth"); pronounced SEE-low-DON-tah
  • Habitat: Plains of northern Eurasia
  • Historical Epoch: Pleistocene-Modern (3 million-10,000 years ago)
  • Size and Weight: About 11 feet long and 1,000-2,000 pounds
  • Diet: Grass
  • Distinguishing Characteristics: Moderate size; thick coat of shaggy fur; two horns on head

About the Woolly Rhino (Coelodonta)

Coelodonta, better known as the Woolly Rhino, is one of the few Ice Age megafauna mammals to be memorialized in cave paintings (another example is the Auroch, the precursor to modern cattle). This is appropriate since it was almost certainly hunting by the early Homo sapiens of Eurasia (combined with inexorable climate change and the disappearance of its accustomed food sources) that helped drive Coelodonta into extinction shortly after the last Ice Age. Clearly, the one-ton Woolly Rhino was coveted not only for its copious meat but for its thick fur pelt, which could clothe an entire village!

Aside from its Woolly Mammoth-like fur coat, the Woolly Rhino was very similar in appearance to modern rhinoceroses, its immediate descendants; that is if you overlook this herbivore's odd cranial ornamentation, one big, upward-curving horn on the tip of its snout and a smaller one set further up, nearer its eyes. It's believed that the Woolly Rhino used these horns not only as sexual displays (i.e., males with bigger horns were more attractive to females during mating season), but also to clear hard snow away from the Siberian tundra and graze on the tasty grass underneath.

One other thing the Woolly Rhino shares in common with the Woolly Mammoth is that numerous individuals have been discovered, intact, in permafrost. In March 2015, headlines were made when a hunter in Siberia stumbled across the well-preserved, five-foot-long, hair-covered corpse of a Woolly Rhino juvenile, later dubbed Sasha. If Russian scientists can recover fragments of DNA from this body, and then combine them with the genome of the still-extant Sumatran Rhino (the closest living descendant of Coelodonta), it may one day be possible to de-extinct this breed and repopulate the Siberian steppes!

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Strauss, Bob. "Woolly Rhino (Coelodonta)." ThoughtCo, Sep. 23, 2021, thoughtco.com/woolly-rhino-coelodonta-1093183. Strauss, Bob. (2021, September 23). Woolly Rhino (Coelodonta). Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/woolly-rhino-coelodonta-1093183 Strauss, Bob. "Woolly Rhino (Coelodonta)." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/woolly-rhino-coelodonta-1093183 (accessed June 7, 2023).