In the frozen wastes of Siberia, local tribes claimed huge hairy mole monsters lived underground to avoid the hard frosts. They spent their lives tunnelling through the frozen soil and immediately died if they came into contact with the surface.
During the brief summer thaw, their remains were often found on river banks where they had accidentally emerged from the ground. Sometimes their mouldering red haired corpses were seen, half eaten by wolves. More often than not, there were only bones and the huge horns they used to burrow through the frozen tundra. The creatures were called memongt, or mammount, meaning ‘earth-horn’.
You might laugh at the simplicity of these superstitious people from the back of beyond. If you do, the joke’s on you. Tribesmen had been selling the creature’s huge horns to China and Mongolia for centuries.
The horns of this legendary creature were so plentiful, it was said the Great Khan sat on a throne made entirely of Memongt ivory.
As early as 400 BC, a Chinese medical book lists giant horns from an animal it called ‘fen shu’ roughly meaning ‘shy rat.’
In the 1600s the Chinese Emperor, Kang Xi wrote… in the North a kind of rat, big as an elephant, lives underground and dies as soon as it comes to the surface and reaches the sunlight.
He compared its teeth to an elephant’s tusks.
Around 1690, the word mammoth entered the English language from Dutch explorers in Siberia. They claimed the teeth came from a type of elephant. The idea was considered absurd; everyone knew elephants were tropical animals and could not survive the cold. This led some to suggest the bodies washed up in Siberia during Noah’s flood and had lain there ever since.
In 1806, the first frozen mammoth was described – unfortunately when it was found, wolves had eaten most of it, including the trunk – which may explain the above picture.
In 1846, a survey team saw a horrible black giant in a flooded Siberian river. They realised it was an elephant’s head with mighty tusks; its long trunk moving sinuously in the current. As the creature was frozen into the river bed, another 24 hours passed before they freed it. The beast was 13-foot tall, 15-foot long and perfectly preserved. Its widely opened eyes made it look alive.
By 1929, the remains of 34 frozen mammoths had been found; four were relatively complete. Parts of one were cooked and eaten by scientists (Yum! Yum!) who found the thawed meat still fresh.
Since then there have been some half dozen almost complete finds of adults and calves. It is estimated some 150 million mammoths are buried beneath the Siberian tundra.
There are claims isolated mammoth herds still survive. In the 19th century, Siberian tribesmen reported sighting large shaggy beasts. In 1920 a Russian fur-trapper claimed to have seen a herd of giant, furry elephants.
As you could drop a small country into Siberia without ever finding it again, who’s to say there aren’t?