The Telegraph always was paleoconservative

Or maybe it’s just that well known inability of Guardian journos – arts graduates all – to deal with numbers.

24 thoughts on “The Telegraph always was paleoconservative”

  1. They had such a good time last time they were there.

    Extincted before Man.

    What purpose is this supposed to serve?

  2. It’s not easy to see why they’d die out 15,000 years ago: there were no men here to kill them.

    In fact it seems unlikely they were here 15,000 years ago: the country was still covered in ice or tundra. If they like woodland they’d presumably have walked in as the trees and grass returned and before the sea level rose to cut off the Continent.

    I can picture them being killed off 6,000 years ago: farmers had arrived.

  3. From the website of another (not the one in the story, so this stuff must be catching!) rewilding group hoping to bring bison to the UK:

    There is an ongoing debate about whether bison were ever present in Britain after the last ice age. No bison bones have yet been found in the UK. But fossil evidence is notoriously difficult to come by. No fossil bones of the wolf, for example, have ever been found in the Netherlands though it was widespread there until only a few centuries ago, and the last one was shot in 1845. Indeed, fossil evidence is so rare that when it comes to light it often explodes all previous theories. A single accidental find of mammoth bones in 2009 in Condover in Shropshire moved the presence of mammoths in Britain closer to the present day by 7,000 years, to only 14,000 years ago. Absence of evidence, as the saying goes, is not evidence of absence.

    Moreover, bison bones have recently been discovered in Doggerland under the North Sea dating to the beginning of the Holocene (our current post-Ice Age epoch which began around 11,700 years ago), along with remains of other Holocene fauna such as the aurochs, wild boar, elk, beaver, roe and otter. Doggerland was the land bridge that connected Britain to Europe until rising seas separated us 8,200 years ago. It is inconceivable that, when we were still physically part of the continent, animals tamely stopped at Calais.

    Can’t comment on the accuracy of these claims and don’t know where they’re sourced from. But I wonder if there’s an element of scientific dispute here rather than pure innumeracy.

  4. @MBE: 15,000 years is a stretch though. They may not have minded tundra but most of the UK was under ice. Maybe they pottered about the far south of England. No trees, mind. Do they eat mosses?

    The beginning of the holocene, i.e. after the ice went back, sounds much more plausible.

    Anyway, the big question – are they good to eat?

  5. Mankind cannot be allowed to drive species X to extinction because of the effect it will have on the delicate balance throughout the eco-structure.

    But if Environmentalists (God’s representatives) introduce an extinct species this will have no effect on the delicate balance of the eco-structure.

  6. There’s also these maps from a Sheffield University research project which show just how far the ice receded between 18k and 15k years ago:

    If you’ve got academic access you can see the paper of the Sheffield researchers at

    They have put an interactive ice extent map at but sadly I don’t think you can run time back and forward in it.

    Disclaimer: geology absolutely not a strong suit of mine.

  7. So Much For Subtlety

    Sam Vara July 11, 2020 at 2:38 pm – “Rewilding? Monbiotic nonsense. What current problem does reintroducing Bison solve?”

    Slow ramblers.

    Rewilding is not as bad idea at all. It is just a shame Britain can’t support a proper wolf pack

  8. @Dearieme, MBE

    The border of the ice sheet is actually of little import to the presence of steppe bison around our parts then. The pretty impressive drop in sea level at the time was…
    The entire North Sea, the Irish Sea, and part of the Atlantic bordering the British Isles and France was dry land, and most stuff lived there. Including humans and possibly the last of the Neanderthals.
    Over the course of the millennia the sea level rose, slowly diminishing that area to basically the North Sea, until around 9000BC there was a huge undersea landslide off Norway which flooded the entire area, giving the North Sea its current shape, minus 4 meters of sea level or so.

    Thing is, the archeological record doesn’t show (m)any steppe bisons in what’s now the UK. Lots of bones from the Doggerbank and surrounds, hardly any even around the UK coast. Could well be that other than the odd adventurer, they never really were present in the UK. As soon as things start to get hilly, you tend to find auroch, and when things get foresty you get wisent.
    Although the three species could interbreed ( and did, according to mRNA research on wisents) it’s highly likely they were specialised to their environments, with the steppe bisons staying more or less in the North Sea basin steppe.

  9. @Grikath

    Do you mean “(m)any steppe bisons in what’s now the UK” around 15k or 6k years ago, or do you mean “ever”? I have no expertise in the distribution of steppe bison either, but there are definitely recordings of Bison priscus in several areas of England, including Derbyshire and Somerset and as far as my google-fu can make out, also Yorkshire, Devon, Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire… perhaps there are a lot of misidentifications in there or whatever, but it gives me the impression of more than none, or a few who got lost.

  10. The Telegraph journo was being inclusive, and using “bison years”, which, like “dog years”, differ from ours.

  11. @Dearieme Both age brackets.

    It’s all to do with geology and what type of soil ended up where after the last ice age.
    During the last two ice ages a lot of sand got blown in from the east south of the ice walls, of which an impressive amount settled in the North Sea basin. Everywhere the sand didn’t land got stuck with loam from the end murenes.
    ( pic here Note how easily recogniseable the british isles were even then…)
    This includes most of the UK, even the flat bits. Most of the sand you got is red/yellow from the sandstone, or dark from the granite, not the “white” quartz you find along the euro coast and the north sea. Basically, in the UK the vast majority of soil type is loam sitting on bedrock.

    Loam isn’t very permeable, so any flat bit in the british isles turned into peat bogs. A thing that’s mirrored along the dutch/german border, and further down into eastern europe.
    Opposed to that, the sand in the North Sea basin is very permeable, which led to the tundra/prairie landscape the various big critters thrived in.
    Being plains dwellers, they wouldn’t be much inclined to wander into a soggy peat swamp. Maybe in winter, but summertime most of the british isles was a soggy mess.
    And that’s not even looking at the actual (current) coast line, which wasn’t much different then… There’s precious few places on the coast where there aren’t cliffs, or you don’t immedeately run into straight hill country. Which is aurochs territory, not (plains) bison.

    So basically, any places they could get onto the british isles were either swamp, or occupied by their cousins.
    There must have been some here and there, but the main herds lived where now the fishes dwell.

  12. The large herds in the west? definitely.
    Along with the mammoths and anything human that still made a living in Doggerland at the time.

  13. @Gamecock

    Watch the vid. While Doggerland existed UK was populated and mostly de-populated many times as climate cycles ran their course.

    There were peeps living in caves in Cornwall throughout last ice age

  14. “There were peeps living in caves in Cornwall throughout last ice age with their bison.”

    Fixed it.

  15. @Gamecock

    Rounded up by our domesticated dogs as a heat & meat source? Possibly, but doubtful. Go for a long fast ride >100mph

    The vid is only 12 mins and gives a not too PC history of ‘modern” homo-sapiens’ world domination, jump in here

    btw: I mixed up domesticated dogs date (~20k) with pop UK (~40k)

    Kents Cavern – been there

    Wouldn’t it be easier and stronger to say “I was wrong about no humans in UK 15K years ago”?

  16. @Gamecock
    This ain’t pendantry

    Gamecock July 11, 2020 at 10:04 am
    They had such a good time last time they were there.
    Extincted before Man.
    What purpose is this supposed to serve?
    dearieme July 11, 2020 at 10:32 am
    It’s not easy to see why they’d die out 15,000 years ago: there were no men here to kill them.

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