Many European cave paintings from the upper paleolithic (Pleistocene) depict woolly rhino. As perhaps the more memorable and favorite Pleistocene megafauna of Europe. Probably due to the red orches, and plants, rock and charcoil combinations that were available some even black. The most famous drawings in one area found are south eastern Czech Republic. An archaeological site known for bone fences and buildings called Dolni Vestonice is believe to have had up to 200 drawings. Some scenes even dipicted two rhinos fighting each other. At another location, in Kapova cave some images even show rhino struck with spears or arrows, vindicating there eventual demise. Font de gauge and Lascaux also had significant woolly rhino drawings in France.
The hollow tooth lived 3 million to 10,000 years ago in and around Europe and Asia. Its size was quite large. Around 2000-3000kg, or 4400 to 6600 lbs. It’s height was about 2 m (6 1⁄2 ft) tall at the shoulder, and up to 4.6 m (15 ft) in total body length. There were some amazing features to minimize heat loss. A longer head and body and shorter legs. Its shoulder, a powerful hump and stored fat cells. It had shorter ears and tail. And, its skin was thicker.
Compared to modern rhinos, there horns were quite large, and faced forward. They were around 1 meter (3.3 feet) to about 1.4 (4.7 feet). There individual weight reached up to 35 lbs. Those were some big horns.
Woolly rhino had been documented as found around the mid 1700s. Scientifically and archaeologically speaking, it was an exciting time. Russians were releasing data, that someone was brave enough to explore the Kapova cave. And, further east Russian scientists were uncovering more neolithic remains in the permafrost.
The big find was in 1907. Russian miners announced they had found a complete frozen skeleton buried in a ozokerite pit.
In the 1910s, 20s and 30s, scientists continued on looking for, and analyzing remains. Many had claimed the woolly rhino had secret powers. They feared it had a similar resemblance to a dragon or mythical creation. By the 1930s numerous specimens were found. Many can now be found at: the Lviv National Museum in Russia, the Natural History Museum in Kraków (Poland), and, Natural History Museum in London.
In the past 20 years, permafrost has continued to melt. An additional 3-5 complete woolly rhinosaurus skeletons have been found. Scientists are already looking at bringing the woolly mammoth back. Maybe one day they will bring the woolly rhino or ceolodonta antiquitatis or ‘hollow tooth of antiquitity’ back.
With its large horns, the ceolodonta antiquitatis would have used them for battle, uncovering food and mammoth steppe, and to attract mates. When they did mate, its believed calves were raised similarly to white and black rhinos. Two titties on the females indicated 2-3 offspring were commonly raised at a time. If similar to modern rhinos the young reached sexual maturity in 5 years, and would go out on there own around 3. Because of there size adults had few predators. Though unless still maturing, it was the young that had to fend off hyenas, cave lions and human predators.
The rhinos liked lowlands, river valleys, and plateaus with dry to arid climates. If necessary they could migrate higher but not if the snow was too deep. In combination, giant deer mammoth, reindeer, saga antelope and bison formed what some scientist now call the mammothus-ceolodonta faunal complex.
Did you know? In Zwolen Poland, and the Yana River devices were made from battered pelvic parts, Half meter spear throwers (atlatls). And spear tips from an assortment of sites were found. These bones were strong.
The woolly rhinos mostly fed on mammoth steppe. A plant vegetation diet was very common: grasses, flowers, forms and mosses. There wide upper lip easily pluck pieces from ground. In the winter, it also ate woody plants, conifers, willows and alder. Because of the low protein calories. They would eat massive amounts of grasses and food.
Around 130,000 years ago it was believed the woolly rhino had the widest range of all rhino species. Though seemingly it did not cross the Bering land bridge (at least in large numbers). It was probably due to low grass density, and having to compete with the larger mammoth, humans and different faunal complexs.
Did you know? Sites in Gudenus cave (Austria), and open air site at Konigsaue, Germany had heavily beaten bones with slash marks. It could have been partially from humans taking the marrow for nutrients and lantern fat. Also, making weapons and tools.
Though it is still widely debated. It is believed depletion of the pleistocene megafauna habitat. The loss of glacier, ice and mammoth steppe eventually contributed to the decline of the woolly rhino. Humans hunting, natural disasters and climate change would also would have contributed to there loss. So, lets hear it for the ceolodonda antiquitatis, or ‘hollow tooth of antiquitity’, bearing resemblance to the fancy European tradition you see today.
Bibliography: Uzunidis, A.; Antoine, P.-O.; Brugal, J.-P. (2022). “A Middle Pleistocene Coelodonta antiquitatis praecursor Guérin (1980) (Mammalia, Perissodactyla) from Les Rameaux, SW France, and a revised phylogeny of Coelodonta Bronn, 1831″. Quaternary Science Reviews. 288. 107594. doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2022.107594.
Shpansky, A.V. (2014). “Juvenile remains of the “woolly rhinoceros” Coelodonta antiquitatis (Blumenbach 1799) (Mammalia, Rhinocerotidae) from the Tomsk Priob’e area (southeast Western Siberia)” (PDF). Quaternary International. Elsevier BV. 333: 86–99. Bibcode:2014QuInt.333…86S. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2014.01.047. ISSN1040-6182.
Price, Samantha (2007-06-01). “Horns, Tusks, and Flippers: the Evolution of Hoofed Mammals” (PDF). Aquatic Mammals. Aquatic Mammals Journal. 33 (2): 254. doi:10.1578/am.33.2.2007.254. ISSN0167-5427. S2CID127893230. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2019-12-08.