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Mammoths: Facts



The word 'mammoth' comes from two words from the Estonian language: 'maa,' which means earth, and 'mutt,' which means mole. Estonia is a country near Russia where farmers found gigantic bones in their fields. They thought that the bones belonged to huge burrowing animals.

Mammoth Quick Facts

  • Size — 9–14 feet (3.5 meters) at the shoulder.
  • Weight — 6–10 tons.
  • Hair — A fur coat in 2 layers, good for cold weather. The thick, long, shaggy outercoat was probably black. The other was a fine, short undercoat.
  • Anatomy — Very similar to the modern elephant. View a mammoth skeleton, and compare the mastodon, mammoth, and elephant.
  • Teeth — Special teeth with ridges, grew 5 or 6 sets in their life, had no enamel, added a growth ring every year. Take a look at these mammoth tooth photos.
  • Tusks — Tusks are teeth that extend from the mammoth's mouth. Female tusks grew to 5–6 feet, male tusks grew to 8 or 9 feet. The tusks help researchers identify the age of the animal at the time of death. Just like a tree, a cross section of a tusk reveals growth rings that reveal an animal's age. Paleontologists have found that the inner surface of one tusk tends to be more worn than the other? This could mean that mammoths were “right-tusked” or “left-tusked.”
  • Diet — Mammoths where herbivores. They ate leaves, bushes, willow, and fir. They might have used their tusks to clear snow. They probably ate about 700 pounds of grass and leaves each day.
  • Life Span — Between 60 and 80 years.


The mammoth is a relative to the modern elephant in the order Proboscidea. Like many other Ice Age mammals, the mammoth became extinct more than 11,000 years ago. Elephants are the largest living land mammals.

There have been more than 500 different kinds of elephants on the Earth at different times over the last 55 million years. Only two of these remain alive today: the African Elephant and the Asian (or Indian) Elephant. They live in tropical climates, but other species, living long ago, were more adapted to colder climates. These include the mammoths.

Where Did They Live?

Remains of mammoths have been found in Europe, Asia and North America. Three species of mammoths (genus Mammuthus) lived on the mainland of the United States at the end of the last Ice Age. These were the Columbian mammoth (Mammuthus columbi), Jefferson's mammoth (Mammuthus jeffersonii) and the woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius).

How Do We Know About Mammoths?


We know about many animals that lived in the past from fossil remains. But with woolly mammoths, whole animals have been found. During the last Ice Age, mammoths died and were trapped in ice which preserved them. Some parts of the world are still cold and still hold the preserved mammoths.

Why did certain animals become extinct? Scientists do not know for sure, but they have a few theories as explained in this article from National Geographic.

Mammoths are thought to have gone extinct about 11,000–13,000 years ago. This is during what is called the late Pleistocene epoch. Take a look at this geological time scale. Follow the history of the earth from about 543 million years ago to the present. Don't forget to stop off at the Pleistocene Epoch.

Follow a group of paleontologists as they travel to Wrangel Island in Siberia to hunt for mammoth bones and teeth. Mammoths survived on Wrangle Island longer than anywhere else earth. Wrangel Island is a 2000-square-mile island in the Chukchi Sea off northeastern Siberia.

Mammoths in Idaho


In 1994, construction crews working in Tolo Lake near Grangeville, Idaho, uncovered a large bone. It turned into the discovery of several mammoth fossils hidden in the lake bed.

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