Prehistoric Horse Discovered in the Klondike

In September of 1993, children playing on a placer claim on Last Chance Creek near Dawson City, discovered a horse’s shoulder bone with a scrap of flesh still clinging to it. They told their fathers of the find and the parents subsequently found the freeze-dried foreleg of the horse. Yukon archaeologists were alerted.

At first some archaeologists thought the bones might be that of a horse that had died at the time of the Klondike Gold Rush (1898). The miners insisted that the carcass was much older. The carcass was transported to the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa. Dr. Dick Harington, a well-known palaeontologist, sent a sample of the bone off to Miami for radiocarbon dating.  Tests done on the bone confirmed the miners’ suspicions. The carcass was identified as the extinct Yukon horse or Ice Age horse. It lived over 26,000 years ago.  The carcass will help tell scientists about both the Ice Age Horse and the environment that it lived in. The pelt showed an animal about the size of a modern day pony. It had a long, flowing, blondish mane.  At the moment, a number of scientific tests and experiments are being performed on the carcass.

Scientists will examine the horse’s hair to see if it gave better insulation that the hair of the modern day horse. The carcass itself will be examined for claw and tooth marks. This will tell whether or not the horse had fallen victim to a predator. The pelt will be examined for signs of  parasites. Intestinal contents may give an idea of the horse’s diet.  An intestinal analysis of the carcass may give scientists and archaeologists information about human life during the Ice Age period.

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