Blue Babe

Blue Babe

After finding a 36,000-year-old steppe bison preserved in the ice, Alaskan zoology professor R. Dale Guthrie and his team ate some of its flesh. Guthrie said the meat was well aged but still a little tough.

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In 1976, the Rumans, a family of miners, discovered an incredibly preserved carcass of a male steppe bison embedded in ice near the city of Fairbanks, Alaska.

They named it Blue Babe, in reference to Babe the Blue Ox, the mythical companion of the American folk figure Paul Bunyan, a giant lumberjack. Thankfully, the family immediately realized that their discovery might be exceptional, so they called Dale Guthrie, a paleontologist from the University of Alaska.

Guthrie and his team managed to melt the thick layer of ice and excavate the carcass, and they quickly realized that they had encountered one of the most preserved specimens of steppe bison ever found.

Radiocarbon analysis of a piece of the animal's skin showed that it had died approximately 36,000 years ago. While examining several wounds on the bison's neck and back, the researchers determined that it had most likely been killed by an American lion, a subspecies of the long-extinct Ice Age lion, the ancient ancestor of the modern African lion.

This had probably occurred in winter; extreme cold had quickly caused the dead bison to freeze, and the vultures thus couldn't destroy its remains. Over the following thousands of years, layers of ice and snow-covered the carcass and it silently waited for someone to discover it, almost completely intact.

Guthrie's research team put a lot of effort into preserving the dead bison in its initial state so that it could be permanently exhibited at the University of Alaska Museum. They even sought the help of Eirik Granqvist, the chief taxidermist for the Zoological Museum of the University of Helsinki, Finland, who used his expert taxidermy skills to completely restore the remains and prevent them from decomposing. During the process, the team even managed to extract some of the animal's blood and bone marrow.

By mid-1984, the specimen was ready to be exhibited. In order to celebrate their success, Guthrie and his team decided to do something rather unorthodox: they removed some meat from the bison's neck and used it to prepare a stew.

According to Guthrie, the meat was tough and somewhat hard to chew, but also quite delicious, resembling ordinary beef. Also, since nobody experienced any nausea or digestive problems, the 36,000-year-old meat was evidently quite edible. Blue Babe can be seen displayed in the Gallery of Alaska at the University of Alaska Museum of the North.

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