Desert horse skeleton’s missing parts handed in

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The skeleton of a horse found in a small Canadian desert is whole again, after a camper handed the missing skull and leg bone into a newspaper office.

The initial excitement of the discovery of the complete skeleton late last month was dampened when archaeologists discovered the skull and some leg bones had apparently gone missing only hours after its discovery.

Archaeologists who went into a Canadian desert to remove the skeleton, originally thought to date from the Yukon gold rush of the late 1890s, found that someone had made off with its skull.

The bones were first spotted by tourists on a bus which had stopped at the Carcross desert to allow passengers to take photographs. The bones were only metres off the highway.

The bus driver immediately called archaeologists. Greg Hare, a Yukon government archeologist, investigated the next morning, and was guided to the spot by the bus driver on a mobile phone.

The excavation began but it was found the skull and some leg parts had apparently been removed in the handful of hours following the discovery.

Hare made an appeal for the return of the missing bones, saying the complete remains would make a valuable reference skeleton.

He speculated that a local resident visiting the tiny one-mile-square desert may have stumbled upon the skeleton and taken the bones home.

His hunch proved largely correct.

The missing remains were delivered to the offices of a local newspaper, the Whitehorse Star, last Monday morning.

The man, who wished to remain anonymous, said he found the bones at a campsite and delivered them to the newspaper because he had read about the skeleton in the newspaper.

Hare expressed his delight at the return of the bones. “We’re really pleased that someone turned this in,” he told local media. “This pretty much completes the skeleton.”

Researchers believe the horse was about five years old and was pregnant when it died.

It was  originally thought the remains dated from the gold rush era in the Yukon in the late 1890s – the Klondike Gold Rush – or perhaps a little later, but experts now believe they are much more recent.

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