Cenozoic Shock Part 3: Sivatherium
One of the most iconic of all modern mammals is the giraffe. Its long neck and legs combined with its spotted hide make it stand out instantly. Like many modern mammals, though, giraffes (and their relatives, okapis), are one existing branch of a whole slew of now-extinct animals. One relative of the giraffe, Sivatherium, is a particularly cool-looking animal. Its name actually means king-of-beast beast, honoring Shiva, hindu god. Purely for this reason, I am going to choose to talk about it.
Sivatherium looked a bit like extant okapis, albeit a ton larger. It was 7 ft 4 in (2.2 m) tall at the shoulder, 10 feet (3 m) in total height, and weighed up to 500 kilograms in weight. This enormous (compared to the okapi) animal also resembled a giraffe in that its head was adorned with ossicones, but its ossicones were wide and large, resembling the antlers of a moose. Under these elaborate horns, though, one can see small ossicones like those of a modern giraffe. To support its extremely heavy ossicones and skull, its shoulders and neck were very thick and powerful.
During the Pliestocene epoch, Sivatherium ranged from Africa (home of the giraffe and okapi) all the way to India. This was its heyday, before the rise of humanity. Interestingly enough, ancient rock paintings in the Sahara desert greatly resemble this animal, meaning that it may have become extinct as recently as 8,000 BCE.
Other evidence has been found of Sivatherium’s recent temporal range, including a Sumerian figurine found in Iraq that also appears to depict one of these animals. Said figurine (shown above) remarkably appears to date back to only about 2,800 BCE, showing that these giraffids may have stayed around long enough to witness the rise of human civilization. PSYCH! The Sumerian figurine wasn’t complete. After its supposed Sivatherium identity was tacked on, a pair of horn tips were also recovered, making it more possible that this “sivathere” figurine actually represented a fallow deer, albeit one sculpted by someone without much knowledge of anatomy. I do still believe that those rock paintings represent Sivatherium, though future hypotheses could easily dethrone me in this regard.
So yeah. Sivatherium did survive into modern history to some extent, but not as far as that Sumerian figurine would indicate. I like Sivatherium a lot, so this post was cool. What next, guys? Your pick.