Despite their name, these gigantic elk were not just native to Ireland, but had an enormous range covering much of Eurasia, Siberia, and China. Many fossilized remains of the Irish elk have been discovered in bogs across Ireland.
The first discovery of these enormous remains stumped the scientific community. The concept of extinction was still fairly unknown during the early 18th-century. Initial theories believed the bones belonged to several unfortunate reindeer or American moose that somehow found their way to Ireland.
However, French naturalist Georges Cuvier studied the fossils closely at his Parisian laboratory and was not convinced. He eventually declared that the bones, in fact, belonged to a species that no longer inhabited the world. This was a key moment in natural history and would aid in the progression of science’s understanding of the natural world.
This collection of Irish elk on display at the National Museum of Ireland is one of the largest and most complete in the world. The museum is one of the best places to marvel at the remains of these beguiling behemothic beasts.