Perfectly Preserved 40,000-Year-Old Tiny Foal Unearthed In Siberia


Katy Evans

Katy is Managing Editor at IFLScience where she oversees editorial content from News articles to Features, and even occasionally writes some.

Managing Editor

Michil Yakovlev/SVFU/Siberian Times 

You may not have heard of the Yakutia region of northern Siberia, but a lot seems to happen of interest there, despite its cold, unforgiving environment.

Recently, the mummified remains of a potential new species of pygmy mammoth were unearthed – incredible in itself – before the story took an unexpected turn when a polar bear showed up and made off with the 50,000-year-old leg for breakfast. Before that, the incredibly preserved 50,000-year-old remains of a cave lion cub were found, and before that it was a fabulously fluffy strawberry blond baby woolly rhino.


Now, another incredible discovery has been revealed: the perfectly preserved remains of a 40,000-year-old foal.

The little colt would have only been 2 or 3 months old when it died 30,000-40,000 years ago. Michil Yakovlev/SVFU/Siberian Times 

The tiny fossilized specimen was only 2 or 3 months old when it perished back in the Upper Paleolithic (Late Stone Age), but its amazing condition, thanks to the permafrost it’s spent the last few millennia in, is incredibly rare and extremely fortuitous.

“The foal has no damage to its carcass, even its hair is preserved, which is incredibly rare for such ancient finds,” the researchers told The Siberian Times.

The detail is incredible. Michil Yakovlev/SVFU/Siberian Times 

Discovered by locals in the ominously named “Door to the Underworld”, a giant crack in the ground otherwise known as the Batagaika crater, it was excavated by researchers from Russia and Japan, and taken to the Mammoth Museum at the North-Eastern Federal University in Yakutsk.


"This is the first find in the world of a prehistoric horse of such a young age and with such an amazing level of preservation," said the museum's head, Semyon Grigoryev.

“[T]his is the foal of a type of horse that populated Yakutia between 30,000 and 40,000 years ago," he added. “This was called the Lenskaya, or Lena Horse (Equus lenensis), genetically different from those living in Yakutia now.” 

Modern-day Yakut horses are stocky, fluffy, and pleasingly round.  Oprea George/Shutterstock

The foal doesn't seem to have any obvious injuries or cause of death. They suspect it could have drowned after falling into a natural trap. To find out more, they have taken samples of hair, biological fluids, and soil to see what else they can find out, including hopefully its diet. For a creature that went extinct during the Pleistocene, it still has a tale to tell.

Now excuse me, while I pack in journalism, take up paleontology, and up sticks to Siberia. It's where it's all happening.