Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. He is the author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), Dragons: A Natural History (1995), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), The Unexplained (1996), From Flying Toads To Snakes With Wings (1997), Mysteries of Planet Earth (1999), The Hidden Powers of Animals (2001), The Beasts That Hide From Man (2003), Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), Dragons in Zoology, Cryptozoology, and Culture (2013), The Menagerie of Marvels (2014), A Manifestation of Monsters (2015), Here's Nessie! (2016), and what is widely considered to be his cryptozoological magnum opus, Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors (2016) - plus, very excitingly, his first two long-awaited, much-requested ShukerNature blog books (2019, 2020).

Dr Karl Shuker's Official Website - http://www.karlshuker.com/index.htm

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IMPORTANT: To view a complete, regularly-updated listing of my Starsteeds blog's poetry and other lyrical writings (each one instantly clickable), please click HERE!

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Monday 28 October 2013


A magnificent model by Jeff Johnson of Brontotherium (=Brontops, =Megacerops) (© Jeff Johnson)

One of the most spectacular beasts from Amerindian mythology must surely be a huge, terrifying creature known as the thunder horse. According to Sioux legends emanating from Nebraska and South Dakota, thunder is the sound produced by the impact of its hooves when it leaps down from the skies to the ground during violent storms, and while on Earth it also uses its hooves to slay bison. Needless to say, it would be tempting to postulate that this extraordinary story was inspired by eyewitness accounts of some mysterious living creature - accounts perhaps passed down verbally from one generation to another for many centuries and subjected to much elaboration and exaggeration, but nonetheless derived ultimately from original encounters with a modern-day animal. In fact, the true solution is very different.

The thunder horse legend actually arose from occasional discoveries by the Sioux Nation of huge fossilised bones - which usually came to light by being washed up out of the ground during heavy rainstorms. Unable to explain their origin, but aware of their appearances' coincidence with rain, the Sioux assumed that they were the earthbound remains of some immense, storm-engendered sky beast - and thus was the legend born.

The Sioux thunder horse, aka Brontotherium (© Jeff Johnson)

In reality, the bones were from an enormous rhinoceros-like ungulate, standing 8 ft tall at the shoulder and belonging to an extinct family of horse-related perissodactyls aptly called titanotheres. The type responsible for the thunder horse legend had existed roughly 35 million years ago, during the late Eocene epoch, and it had borne upon its nasal bones a massive V-shaped projection most closely resembling the horn-like structures (ossicones) of the giraffes. When this creature's remains were examined during the 1870s by the celebrated American palaeontologist Prof. Othniel Charles Marsh, its intimately-associated thunder horse myth inspired him to christen it Brontotherium - 'thunder beast'.

NB - In recent years, the genus Brontotherium (along with Brontops and several other brontothere genera of titanothere) has been synonymised with Megacerops by some researchers, but as far as its legendary past is concerned, this spectacular beast will always be the thunder horse – a monumental physical embodiment of the thunderstorm's awesome power and terror.

Brontotherium (© Jeff Johnson)

To read online a poem of mine, 'Behold The Thunder Horse', inspired by the Sioux Nation's thunder horse legend and contained in my self-penned poetry book Star Steeds and Other Dreams (2009), click here.

This ShukerNature post is excerpted and updated from my book In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), which is to be re-issued in the not-too-distant future due to popular demand, so be sure to keep a lookout for it!

Restoration of a pair of Brontotherium titanotheres (Dmitry Bogdanov/Wikipedia)


  1. It is interesting that Native Americans correctly identified the bones as horse related. Ancient Europeans often tended to presume fossil bones to be human giants.

    Will your Survivors book be updated or revised?

  2. "re-issued" is definitely a low-keyed description. From this post it is obvious the book must have been wonderfully revised and updated!

  3. In fact, this post is virtually verbatim from the original edition - the updating is the reference to the synonymising of Brontotherium and Brontops with Megacerops.

  4. Sorry. I guess I was mistaken to think the book was being updated.

  5. The decision as to whether merely to reissue the book in its original edition or whether to reissue it in updated form is still under consideration, though whichever alternative is decided upon there will definitely be some new illustrations,

  6. It seems that you could update a large part of it considering that almost twenty years have passed. It would be odd if CFZ Press were reluctant to do this right, when they publish so much on zooform phenomena. Lazarus taxa at least are known to have existed in the past. I have not found a reply to George Gaylord Simpson's discussion of the okapi in his cryptozoology article that is very satisfactory. He is at pains to say the okapi is not a Samotherium as if a short necked giraffe of slightly different mane were not a prehistoric survivor!

  7. The problem with updating it is exactly that almost 20 years have indeed passed, during which so much has happened in this field that the updates alone could run to a book the size of the original edition, which is why I'm not sure whether a full update would be practical. CFZ Press aren't the publisher of this book.

  8. That is great news that you have so much more on the subject. Perhaps you could do a volume two? Actually, 191 pages is really a very short book...

  9. Not very short. Any longer and the price would need to increase too, and in these internet-based free information days people don't want to spend large amounts of money on books when they can get so much info free of charge online. Also, a Vol 2 wouldn't work, as there would need to be so many back-references to the original volume in order for the new info to be in context. So as I say, it's all under discussion right now as to which route to pursue with it.

  10. Those pictures are absolutely gorgeous! I love places with amazing beauty. Nice blog.. Good job.. Thank you so much for the information. It’s a great post…I love travelling and want to travel all over the world.