Legendary horselike HOOFED Mammal of the north-central United States.
Etymology: Translation of a Siouan word. Physical description: Large and horselike. Behavior: Thunder is generated by its hooves as it jumps to the ground during storms. Kills bison.
Distribution: Nebraska; South Dakota. Possible explanation: Probably based on knowledge of fossilized skeletons of such megafauna as the titanotheres—elephant-sized herbivores with huge, blunt horns on their snouts—that died out some 34 million years ago. Othniel C. Marsh's naming of the rhinoceros-like North American fossil Brontotherium was inspired by Thunder horse legends.
Sources: Herbert Wendt, Before the Deluge (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1968), pp. 284-291; Josef Benes, Prehistoric Animals and Plants (London: Hamlyn, 1979), pp. 91-92; Karl Shuker, In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (London: Blandford, 1995), pp. 164-165.
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