The mammoth fed entirely on plants. In other words, it was a herbivore – like its smaller relative, the elephant of today. These colossal animals, whose name has become another word for hugeness, must have needed a great amount of vegetation to keep themselves alive.
In a broad sense, the name mammoth has come to be applied to any extinct members of the elephant family. Their fossils have been found in every continent except Australia and South America.
Although similar to present-day elephants in their general skeletal formation, mammoths differed from them and from each other in the shape of their skulls and tusks, and the structure of their teeth.
By far the best-known mammoths are the woolly, northern or Siberian giants. Not only skeletons but even well-preserved carcasses of these beasts have been discovered in the permanently frozen north of the Soviet Union.
Elsewhere their appearance is preserved by the cave paintings, drawings and carvings left by Stone Age men of the beasts they hunted. In these pictures the mammoths are shown as shaggy animals, completely covered with hair and with large tusks growing upwards and inwards. They had a shoulder height of about nine and a half feet.