Incredibly Well-Preserved Young Woolly Rhino Revealed By Melting Permafrost

Kane Khanh | Archeaology
July 16, 2023

This fine if rather intimidating woolly rhino can be found at Weston Park Museum, Sheffield, UK. The new rhino discovered is a juvenile, probably only three or four when it died. Chemical Engineer CC BY 4.0

An incredibly well-preserved woolly rhino with many of its internal organs still inside has been revealed by the melting permafrost in Siberia.

According to the Siberian Times, the Ice Age creature was revealed by thawing permafrost in the Yakutia region in Russia’s extreme north in August and is thought to be the best-preserved woolly rhino found there yet.

The rhino is thought to be a juvenile, possibly three or four years old when it died sometime between 20,000 and 50,000 years ago. Because the remains have stayed hidden and frozen for thousands of years, the carcass is remarkably preserved, and still includes some of its hazel-colored hair, soft tissue, intestines, teeth, lumps of fat, and even its horn.

“The young rhino was between three and four years old and lived separately from its mother when it died, most likely by drowning,” Dr Valery Plotnikov from the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), who made the first description of the find, told the Siberian Times.

“The [sex] of the animal is still unknown. We are waiting for the radiocarbon analyses to define when it lived; the most likely range of dates is between 20,000 and 50,000 years ago.”

The rhino remains were discovered not far from where Sasha, the world’s only baby woolly rhino ever found, was discovered in 2014. Sasha, which has striking strawberry blond fur, has been dated to 34,000 years old.

Dr Plotnikov described the new rhino as having a “very thick short underfur”. Sasha helped prove that woolly rhinoceroses were covered in thick hair – something that could only be discerned by cave paintings before – and now this new one has added to evidence that woolly rhinos were fully adapted to the cold climate at a young age.

Currently, the Ice Age relic is still in Yakutia, waiting for ice roads to form so that it can be transferred to the region’s capital, Yakutsk, to be studied by scientists.

Yakutia is well known for its incredible ancient animal finds. Due to the warming of the region, the permafrost is thawing, particularly during the summer months. Though this may not be good for the atmosphere, it’s a treasure trove when it comes to revealing ancient beasts. The last few years have wielded ancient wolf pups, “pygmy” mammoths, cave lions, birds, tiny foals, and even a curious proto-dog pup.