The Lost Species Of Britain

Britain was once home to an array of exotic animals but unfortunately, these species are no longer with us. From great whales and oversized rats to mammoths and bears. `There is an estimated 500 British species which have become extinct in the past few thousand years.

Extinctions in Britain have three main causes, Climate change as the ecosystem swung from temperate woodland and pasture, Habitat loss by human activities, such as the clearing of woodland or draining of marshland and Hunting by humans. 

Throughout the Pleistocene (Ice age) the climate alternated between cold glacial periods, including times when the climate was too cold to support much fauna. Britain has been an ever-changing landscape and because of this some animals have disappeared. If a habitat can no longer sustain a population, that animal dies out. Forests have decreased, grasslands have changed, wetlands have changed. There was once a land bridge between Britain and continental Europe. This area between France and Britain has been called Doggerland. It was the route that rhinos and other giants of the ice age would have taken to and from the warmer climates of southern Europe.

Here are some of the UK’s extinct animals and the stories behind their loss. Some became extinct thousands of years ago while others disappeared much more recently.

References for video

Lions painted in the Chauvet Cave (Ardèche, France). This is a replica of the painting from the Brno museum Anthropos (Czech Republic). The absence of the name sometimes leads to these paintings being described as portraits of lionesses.12 June 2009 – HTO

A late Pleistocene landscape in northern Spain with European cave lions (Panthera leo spelaea) with a reindeer carcass. (Information according to the caption of the same image in Alan Turner (2004) National Geographic Prehistoric Mammals, Washington, D.C.: National Geographic ISBN 9780792271345, ISBN 9780792269977) – circa 2004, from C. Sedwick (1 April 2008). “What Killed the Woolly Mammoth?”. PLoS Biology 6 (4): e99. DOI:10.1371/journal.pbio.0060099. – Mauricio Antón
“© 2008 Public Library of Science. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.”

Naturhistorisches Museum Wien: By Tommy from Arad – PantheraUploaded by FunkMonk, CC BY 2.0,

Skull of Panthera leo spelaea
Stage : Pleistocene
Locality : Montmaurin, Haute-Garonne, France.
Muséum of Toulouse MHNT.PAL.2009.0.1
Focus stacking of 3 pictures.
Taken on 15 May 2013
Didier Descouens

Lascaux cave, Dordogne, France – felids gallery, engravings copied by A. Glory (scale bar = 25 cm).
17 000 years ago
personal scan of a copy by A. Glory of prehistoric engravings from Lascaux cave (author died proximately 17 000 years ago), from Lascaux inconnu, Leroi-Gourhan Arl. and Allain J. (eds), 1979, CNRS Editions. – Caveman

Lions and bison depicted in the Chauvet Cave, France[18]
By Claude Valette – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Cave lion with a reindeer, painting by Heinrich Harder[41]
By Heinrich Harder (1858-1935) – The Wonderful Paleo Art of Heinrich Harder, Public Domain, rom Caitlin Sedwick (1 April 2008). “What Killed the Woolly Mammoth?”. PLoS Biology 6 (4): e99. DOI:10.1371/journal.pbio.0060099.
Mauricio Antón

Map showing hypothetical extent of Doggerland (c. 10,000 BCE), which connected Great Britain and continental Europe
By Max Naylor – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The wolly mammoth rhinoceros antiquitatis
H. Osborn, ‘Men of the Old Stone Age’
Charles R. Knight  (1874–1953)

Woolly Rhinoceros display in the Weston Park Museum, Sheffield
8 March 2011, 13:31:20
Chemical Engineer

Straight tusked elephant 
By José-Manuel Benito – Own work, Public Domain,

Straight tusked elephant 2
By DFoidl – Own work, CC BY 3.0,

By User:Jack1956 – Own work by the original uploader, CC0,

Painting of Smilodon populator from the American Museum of Natural History.
Charles R. Knight  (1874–1953)

Saber Toothed Tiger , extinct animals
Date 12 July 2019
Source Archives of Pearson Scott Foresman, donated to the Wikimedia Foundation
image extraction process This file has been extracted from another file: PSF S-800003.png
original file – Author Pearson Scott Foresman

Steps of reconstruction
Date 25 March 2013, 01:35:42
Source Own work
Author Cicero Moraes

Smilodon californicus fossil at the National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.
Date Unknown date (Exif data says 1980, which is obviously wrong

Sabertoothed Cat
Uploaded by FunkMonk
Author Ryan Somma

A sabretooth cat and skeleton are presented side by side at the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Center in Whitehorse, YT, Canada.
The skull below the stuffed cat and assembled skeleton came from Rancho La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles.
It is thought that sabretooth cats were found south of the Cordilleran and Laurentide Ice Sheets and that they were more common than the scimitar cat which is related.
Date 21 June 2014, 11:34
Source Sabretooth Cat (Smilodan fatalis)
Author Chris Hunkeler from Carlsbad, California, USA

Homotherium serum (Cope, 1893) – fossil dirk-toothed cat skull from the Pleistocene of North America. (public display, Cincinnati Museum of Natural History & Science, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA)
Classification: Animalia, Chordata, Vertebrata, Mammalia, Carnivora, Felidae
See info. at:
Date 21 March 2007, 13:02:37
Author James St. John

Cave bear, to see in three-fourths profile – exposed in the en:Devil’s Cave (near Pottenstein)Date 23 July 2008
Source Own work
Author Ra’ike (see also: de:Benutzer:Ra’ike)

By Jan Dembowski – A Day at the MuseumUploaded by FunkMonk, CC BY 2.0,

reconstruction of a European cave bear (Ursus spelaeus)

Date 31 October 2008

Source Own work

Author Sergiodlarosa

Other versions

“Neanderthals at the Dinosaur Park near Norwich” by BadgerGravling is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Description In the Royal BC Museum in Victoria (Canada). The display is from 1979, and the fur is musk ox hair.[1]

Date 1 July 2011, 20:17



Uploaded by FunkMonk

Author Flying Puffin

Camera location 48° 25′ 11.88″ N, 123° 22′ 04.5″ W Kartographer map based on OpenStreetMap.


English: Wooly Mammoth fossil skeleton on display at the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, IL

Date 19 April 2018

Source Own work

Author Zissoudisctrucker

Camera location 41° 51′ 58.92″ N, 87° 37′ 00.12″ W Kartographer map based on OpenStreetMap.

Description Woolly mammoths.

Date 1915

Source and


Charles R. Knight  (1874–1953) Blue pencil.svg wikidata:Q725877

Description Wooly mammoths near the Somme River, AMNH mural.

Date Made public in 1916, according to the book Charles R. Knight: The Artist Who Saw Through Time



Charles R. Knight  (1874–1953) Blue pencil.svg wikidata:Q725877

“Minsmere reed beds” by Chris Penny is licensed under CC BY 2.0

“Drained wetlands in the lower Dwyryd Valley” by Eric Jones is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0


English: Life restoration of an Aurochs bull found in Braunschweig, done by using the skeleton as direct reference for the proportions and horns; body shape and colour is based on what we know of the aurochs and primitive cattle breeds.

Русский: Реконструкция внешнего вида тура, найденного в Брауншвейге.

Date 27 January 2013, 17:46:50

Source Jaap Rouwenhorst

Author Jaap Rouwenhorst (photograph) DFoidl (GIMP modifications)

Description Berlin 2012

Date 8 April 2012, 15:30


Skull of a pre-historic cow

Uploaded by FunkMonk

Author Thomas Quine

By Heinrich Harder (1858-1935) – The Wonderful Paleo Art of Heinrich Harder, Public Domain,

By John Gould – John Gould: The Birds of Europe, vol. 5 pl. 55lithograph by Edward Lear with hand coloring.30.2 x 44 cm (image); 38.3 x 55.5 cm (sheet)Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts [1], Public Domain,

By Mike Pennington, CC BY-SA 2.0,

By Thomas Bewick – Own scan, Public Domain,


English: The great auk

Date between 1902 and 1903

Source Popular Science Monthly Volume 62

Author Unknown author


English: Taxidermy Great Auk on display in the Zoological Museum of Trinity College Dublin.

Date 3 August 2013, 14:30:54

Own work



English: July 3 1844 the last Great Auk was murdered off the coast of Iceland we used to have penguins in the northern Hemisphere people and we ruined it

Date 6 December 2016, 14:20:33


Author amanderson2

“Great Auk.” by Library & Archives @ Royal Ontario Museum is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

“Great Auk from Birds of America (1827) by John James Audubon (1785 – 1851), etched by Robert Havell (1793 – 1878). The original Birds of America is the most expensive printed book in the world and a truly awe-inspiring classic.” by Free Public Domain Illustrations by rawpixel is licensed under CC BY 2.0

By The original uploader was Kobsev at Russian Wikipedia. – Transferred from ru.wikipedia to Commons., CC BY 2.5,

Description Eschrichtius robustus skeleton

Date 1 January 1980, 00:02


Gray Whale

Uploaded by FunkMonk

Author Ryan Somma

Description Una ballena gris adulta y su cría se acercan a los turistas. / An adult gray whale and its calf approach tourists.

Date 20 March 2010

Source Own work

Author José Eugenio Gómez Rodríguez


English: Gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus) breaching.

(The original image has been cropped.)

Date 2 September 2005, 12:42:34


Author Merrill Gosho, NOAA

“Extremely Close Wild Gray Whale Head (Magdalena Bay, MX)” by Charlie Stinchcomb is licensed under CC BY 2.0

“Baby Gray Whale – Peeking Thru Water” by goingslo is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

By CIA – CIA World Factbook – Atlantic Ocean (picture URL), Public Domain,

“Baby Gray Whale Close Ups – A Series” by goingslo is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Description A view of whale fishery.

Date 1790


Treasures of the NOAA Photo Library; Image ID: libr0195.

From “A Collection of Voyages round te World … Captain Cook’s First, Second, Third and Last Voyages ….” Volume V, London, 1790, page 1910.

Author Archival Photograph by Mr. Sean Linehan

Collage of pictures of Grey whale breaching off the cost of Santa Barbara, CA. Picture taken 3-29-07.

Description Size comparison of an average human and a gray whale

Date 8 September 2006

Source Own work

Author Chris_huh


(Reusing this file) GFDL

iption Found in a marshy area next to mangroves.

Date 7 January 2012, 19:03:54

Source Flickr: Common Tree Frog (Polypedates leucomystax)

Author Thomas Brown

“The Common Tree Frog” by balharsh is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

“Common Tree Frogs (Hyla arborea) juvenile …” by berniedup is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

“Common Tree Frog, Polypedates leucomystax (Gravenhorst, 1829)” by Misenus1 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

By Jim Champion, CC BY-SA 2.0,


English: Map of the River Otter and its catchment in Devon and Somerset, UK.

Date 21 February 2014


Ordnance Survey OpenData.

Relief data and catchment from OS Terrain 50 product.

Administrative borders and coastline data from Boundary-Line product.

All other geographic data from Meridian 2 product.

Author Nilfanion, created using Ordnance Survey data

By Derek Harris, CC BY-SA 2.0,

By James Lindsey at Ecology of Commanster, CC BY-SA 3.0,

“Bluefin Tuna” by Aziz T. Saltik is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

“Thunnus thynnus (giant bluefin tuna) – thon rouge” by Alexandre Dulaunoy is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0


English: Group of Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) in the eastern chamber of the trap at Favignana, Sicily, Italy. Depth 22 meters.

Date May 1998


Author Danilo Cedrone (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization)

By Unknown author – National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA),Photo Library,, Public Domain,

Leave a Reply

Powered by
%d bloggers like this: