Thursday, March 29, 2012

Belated They Actually Eat That: Wooly Mammoths.

Sorry that I got into all-out cryptozoologist mode yesterday. Having a wonky sleep schedule and a semi-important assignment due the next day made me forget what day it was. Maybe I'll switch the two entries around just so that people think I have a sense of time. Maybe.

That said, it's hard to coordinate "They Actually Eat That" with something as obscure as a week covering animals that may or may not exist. What, have people actually eaten Bigfoot? Given that humans eat anything, we would not be surprised if some drunk hunter shot Bigfoot and thought the furry thing might be good eatin', but that is not today's entry.


Most of you will not be at all surprised to hear that humans have eaten prehistoric megafauna like mammoths and mastodons (yes, there's a difference). We were definitely around in the same approximate time frame. There is an inverse relationship between human populations and ancient megafauna for a reason. A good mammoth could probably feed the whole tribe for a while if properly preserved; where's the reason not to kill these guys, again? Remember, this is humanity we're talking about.

The shocker is not that prehistoric humans were eating steaks made of mammoth instead of cow. The surprise comes when one learns that eating mammoth continued even after several other types of animal had been domesticated. There are several instances of modern humans eating frozen mammoth carcasses. And here you thought you left things in the freezer too long.

Mammoth is a very, very rare meat. As such, it has wound up in foodie fests only once in a blue moon. An annual dinner of Garth: The Explorers Club in 1951 is one of the few situations in which mammoth meat was actually presented at a banquet. Even then, it was probably in small chunks.

Most instances of eating mammoth occur when adventurers get curious. There are plenty of old reports concerning paleontologists who lived on mammoth meat for a bit - or at least tried it. This happens in the modern day as well. The most recent report is from the 2001 book Mammoth. A Siberian zoologist featured therein said, "it tasted meat left too long in the freezer."


Even if one is lucky enough to find mammoth meat, it usually tastes horrible if it's edible at all. Most mammoth carcasses smell so bad that only wild dogs and other scavengers will eat it. The meat, when edible, can be generally described as "old and dry," even if it looks all right. Pretty much the only reason (aside from starvation) to eat mammoth is to say you have eaten mammoth. Admittedly, not many people can say that...just make sure the meat is not rotten if you get the chance.

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