Elasmotherium ("Thin Plate Beast") was a genus of giant rhinoceros which stood, on average, 2.7 metres (8.9 ft) high and 6 metres (20 ft) long, with a single two-meter-long horn in the forehead. The animal may have weighed up to 5 tonnes (5.5 short tons). Its legs were longer than those of other rhinos and were designed for galloping, giving it a horse-like gait. It was probably a fast runner, in spite of its size. Its teeth were similar to those of horses, and it probably grazed low herbs.
The genus appeared during the Late Pliocene in Central Asia, being derived from the genus Sinotherium. E. inexpectatum and E. peii inhabited Eastern China during the Upper Pliocene to Early Pleistocene. They disappeared approximately 1.6 Ma.
Morphological peculiarities of elasmotherians have generated two main hypotheses concerning their appearance and the character of their habitat. The first, most widely accepted view which was also described above, portrays them as large woolly animals with a large forehead horn that thrived on an open steppe. Fossils of the horn, however, have not been found. The other view assigns elasmotherians to riparian biotopes. It is probable that elasmotherians dwelt in both riparian and steppe biotope. The riparian biotope is suggested by dental and skull morphology. The combination of such characteristics as the absence of canines and strongly developed lateral processes of the atlas implies lateral movements of the head, presumably for grasping grass. The hypsodont dentition indicates presence of mineral grains in the food. Such food could be obtained by pulling out dense plants from the moist soil. These conditions are typical for riparian biotopes. On the other hand, a steppe biotope is indicated by their rather long and slender limbs, which would have served well for creatures grazing over vast areas.
It is believed that Elasmotherium died out in prehistoric times. However, according to science writer and cryptozoologist Willy Ley, the animal may have survived long enough to be remembered in the legends of the Evenk people of Russia as a huge black bull with a single horn in the forehead.
There is also a testimony by the medieval traveller Ibn Fadlan which has been interpreted by some[who?] to indicate that Elasmotherium may have survived into historical times.