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Soviets Donate Hair of Rare Mammoth to U.S. Museum

May 2, 1991

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) _ A bag full of hair wouldn’t excite most people the way it excited scientists at the Illinois State Museum. But then most people aren’t studying the mammoth.

The Soviet Union’s Zoological Institute gave the bag of rare mammoth hair to the museum Wednesday. The Smithsonian is the only other museum in the Western Hemisphere that has such rare material.

″The material ... comes from an animal that is 10,000 years old but preserved as if it were collected from the animal only yesterday,″ said State Museum Director R. Bruce McMillan.

Mammoths, giant, elephant-like creatures, first appeared about 5 million years ago and roamed across much of the Northern Hemisphere. They reached North America about 1.9 million years ago, then mysteriously died out about 10,000 years ago.

The hair given the Illinois museum belonged to a female mammoth discovered frozen in Siberia in 1979. It is believed to be one of the species’ last survivors.

Mammoth experts from the museum have worked with Soviet officials before, McMillan said.

″We are glad to have the cooperation of the United States of studying the mammoths,″ said Soviet Professor Gennady Baryshnikov, who presented the hair to museum officials.

The museum may conduct tests of the hair’s genetic material. It is to go on display by summer.

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