Unicorns were real!

But, sadly, really ugly, too. And also, pretty much a rhinoceros.
Siberian unicorn An artist's impression of the Siberian unicorn. (Wikimedia Commons)

Do you believe in unicorns? If you shyly answered, "Yes", don't be so bashful. It turns out you were right all along! They did exist!

Sort of.

Meet the so-called Siberian Unicorn, or Elasmotherium sibiricum (ee-lahz-moh-THEHR-ee-um sigh-BUH-reh-kum). It was in fact not related to the horse, but instead a prehistoric rhinoceros that scientists once believed became extinct about 350,000 years ago. Now research on a newly discovered skull is suggesting that this creature may have still existed only 29,000 years ago.

Researchers found the skull in the northeastern part of Kazakhstan, a country south of Russia. This area of the world is part of a much larger region called Siberia (where the nickname "Siberian unicorn" comes from). Siberia isn't a country, but an area known for very cold temperatures and wide open spaces. It is also an excellent location for fossils of prehistoric mammals like woolly mammoths and Elasmotherium. The permafrost (ground that is always frozen) keeps the bodies of long extinct animals in amazing condition.

So why is this discovery so interesting?

Okay, so I know what you're thinking. 350,000 years ago. 29,000 years ago. Those are both still a long time ago. And you're right.

But maybe the coolest thing about this discovery is that it now means that the Elasmotherium sibiricum lived at the same time as another creature: Homo sapiens or modern humans.

In other words, you could say that once upon a time, people and "unicorns" lived side-by-side, riding rainbows together and spreading magic across the land. Or maybe just that your ancient ancestors learned to stay out of the way of this giant rhinoceros with a deadly horn the size of their arm.

Either way, science is pretty awesome!

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