The American mastodon, Mammut americanum, is one of the very best-known prehistoric mammals. Many complete skeletons have been found throughout the North American continent, from this one-tusked male at the Royal Ontario Museum to this female and calf from the La Brea Tar Pits of California. And yet the mighty mastodon has been largely overlooked by toy companies in favour of its more famous relative, the woolly mammoth. That is, until now.
Safari Ltd released a number of fine prehistoric mammals courtesy of master sculptor Doug Watson way back in 2004, but a stipulation in the company’s contract with Carnegie prohibited any further such creations. But Safari finally severed dealings with Carnegie in 2015, and while many collectors, including myself, mourned that outcome at the time, the result has been a plethora of prehistoric mammals for the 2018 Wild Safari line! Among them is this wonderful American mastodon. At 21 cm in length and 10 cm tall at the shoulder (11.5 cm including the tip of the raised trunk), it is presently the biggest prehistoric mammal in the Wild Safari line to date, easily humbling the Amebelodon and woolly mammoth. Based on the abundant fossil remains, the average mastodon grew to the same weight as a modern elephant, but some males may have reached up to 12 tons. And a European species, M. borsoni, weighed an estimated 15 tons, making it the second largest known proboscidean!
“Listen up, you mugs, I’m givin’ the orders around here now, see?”
Some people easily confuse or equate the American mastodon with the woolly mammoth due to the fact that they are both extinct proboscideans with huge tusks and shaggy fur that coexisted in the same regions. But compared to its distant relative, the mastodon had a flatter skull, lower shoulders, shorter legs, a longer body, a more muscular build, and thinner fur. Morever, its mouth boasted very distinct, cusp-shaped teeth as opposed to the flatter teeth of mammoths and modern elephants. Indeed, the word “mastodon” literally means “nipple tooth” due to the fact that the teeth reminded 18th century palaeontologists of the nipples on human breasts! Save for those teeth, all of these distinguishing characteristics are readily apparent on this figure. It is posed in a walking stance with its great head swung to the right, its mouth open, and its trunk raised high. This majestic tusker is making its presence known to all!
The main colour on this toy is medium brown with dark wash to give it a layered appearance. The tusks are dirty white with faint pink near the roots. The eyes are a rich brown, the mouth and the tip of the trunk are purple, the toenails are grey, and the tuft at the end of the tail is black. The shaggy fur covering the animal’s entire body has been meticulously, almost lovingly sculpted. The bulging muscles visible beneath the fur give the animal a fluid, very lifelike appearance. I don’t own any of Safari’s other 2018 prehistoric mammals just yet, but I honestly can’t imagine any of them having detail superior to this one. It’s certainly the best-sculpted prehistoric proboscidean I’ve ever seen. Hands down.
This American mastodon has it all: impressive size, scientific accuracy, and outstanding detail. And as I noted back in the intro, mastodon toys are far from legion. I definitely recommend this gem to anyone who enjoys prehistoric mammal figures, or anyone looking to start collecting them. My compliments go out to artist Doug Watson for his masterful craftsmanship. And thank you to FaunaFigures.com for this and many other figures. 🙂