Jul 252016

Giant Irish Elk skeleton.National Museum of Scotland, Chambers St, Edinburgh EH1 1JF

The magnificent skeleton of this extinct beast was added to the collection of Edinburgh University’s natural history museum in 1821 by Robert Jameson. It is not in fact a close relative of modern elks, but is a species of extinct giant deer. The skeleton was discovered in a bog in Ballaugh on the Isle of Man, and brought to Edinburgh through the efforts of the Duke of Atholl. This remarkable creature was at the centre of early debates on extinction. The great French geologist, Georges Cuvier, famously used it as an example of a species that was now completely extinct.

Giant Irish Elk, from the George Cuvier's Theory of the Earth(1827), edited by Robert Jameson.

Giant Irish Elk, from George Cuvier’s Theory of the Earth (1827), edited by Robert Jameson.

  4 Responses to “Giant Irish Elk, National Museum of Scotland”

  1. The animal is from Ballaugh in the Isle of Man and not Ireland as stated

    • You’re quite correct, the skeleton was dug up on the Isle of Man. Apologies for the error, and the delay in getting back to you. We’ve now put it right.

  2. For more than a century, the skeletal Irish elk stood exhibited at its full height, its antlers suspended from wires attached to the ceiling. Since 2019, it has been lying down in a resting pose. This placement brings the antlers down to the sightline of a child.

  3. Was this elk once known as the “Ballaugh Kewish” elk? My ancestors from the Isle of Man may be the ones that actually initially discovered this skeleton.

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