s Woolly Mammoth - icon of the Ice Age (part 1) - Hull Museums Collections

Woolly Mammoth - icon of the Ice Age (part 1)

mammoth tusk

A firm visitor favourite at the Hull and East Riding Museum is Mortimer the life sized reconstruction of a Woolly Mammoth. The ancient beast, an icon of the last Ice Age, has been extinct for thousands of years. The discovery of fossils, frozen bodies preserved in the Siberian permafrost, and cave paintings left by our ancient ancestors all help us piece together how these magnificent animals lived.

The Last Ice Age

The Woolly Mammoth lived in the last Ice Age, from around 250,000 years ago. Despite popular belief they did not live on glaciers; such a barren environment would not have enough food to support such massive animals. Woolly Mammoths actually lived in sub-arctic tundra regions. The museum collections include artefacts found in the region indicating that the Mammoth lived in the East Riding around 75,000 years ago during the onset of a cold stage. During this period the summers could have reached highs of 10C but plunged in the winter months to as low as -20C, the mammoths had a number of adaptations to help them survive in these harsh conditions.


The mammoth had an overcoat of thick, coarse, dark and incredibly long hair; on the underbelly this hair could reach 1m in length. Underneath was more hair, a 2.5cm thick undercoat of dense, fine woollen, yellow-brown fur. Beneath the skin was a thick layer of blubber like fat. The thick grey skin (similar to that of an elephant) was covered in glands, which secreted fatty grease into the hair to give further protection against the cold. In the more temperate summer climate the mammoth would moult.


Woolly Mammoth
The Woolly Mammoths had huge curved tusks, which could reach 5m in length more than twice the length of a male African elephant. The curved tusks would have been used like a shovel to clear the snow and get to the food buried beneath. They would also have been used for self-defence and mating rituals.

Tails, trunks, ears and teeth

Woollies had much smaller tails, trunks and ears than the modern elephant. These adaptations helped to prevent excessive heat loss. African elephant's ears can measure 1.8m in length, mammoth ears were tiny in comparison and would have been just 30cm long. The trunk was shorter with the tip of the trunk had two finger-like projections which the mammoth used to grasp the rough tundra shrubs it fed upon. Woolly Mammoths were huge creatures, growing to about 330cm [11 feet, similar to modern Indian Elephants] and weighing as much as 8 tons, over 8100 kg which is the same weight as a London double decker bus!
Woolly Mammoth
A fully grown Woolly Mammoth would have needed to consume over 100kg of vegetation daily, leading some researchers to believe that around 20 hours of a mammoth's day was dedicated to eating! Mammoth's teeth were adapted to cope with grinding the harsh, tough, tundra vegetation, which was the staple food of their diet. Like elephants, mammoths grew six sets of teeth during their lifetime, a set consisting of four teeth in total; two at the top and two on the bottom jaw.

View all the Mammoth specimens in our collection or use the advanced search