That also explains their disappearance. Once the cow arrived, milk was more readily supplied and the animal was possibly far more tractable. That left them as riding animals and once again tractability was shaky if reports with moose are any guidance. Thus the emergence of a more useful horse spelled the extinction of any domesticated elk.
I expect we will be able to recover the genome and from that restore the species as well.. .
Below is an account of mine devoted to this tantalising subject and dating back to 1995, when it appeared in my book In Search of Prehistoric Survivors. It is followed by various fascinating updates, including some significant palaeontological discoveries made since my book's publication but of great pertinence to the question of post-Pleistocene survival for this species.
But first – here is the relevant excerpt from my book:
The Irish elk Megaloceros giganteus was one of the largest species of deer that ever lived. It was also one of the most famous - on account of the male's enormous antlers, attaining a stupendous span of 12 ft and a weight of over 100 lb in some specimens. Sadly, its common name is misleading, as this impressive species is only very distantly related to the true elk (moose), and, far from being an Irish speciality, was prevalent throughout the Palaearctic Region, from Great Britain to Siberia and China.
During his Megaloceros account, Gosse included some reports describing discoveries in Ireland of huge limb bones assumed to be from Megaloceros, which were so well-preserved (and hence recent?) that the marrow within them could be set alight, and thereby utilised as fuel by the peasantry, or even boiled to yield soup!
Irish elk statue at Crystal Palace, London, originally created by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins during the 1850s (© Dr Karl Shuker)
On 15 June 2000, a paper published in the scientific journal Nature and co-authored by Dr Lister revealed that a near-complete Megaloceros skeleton uncovered in the Isle of Man (IOM) and a fragmentary antler from southwest Scotland had recently been shown via radiocarbon dating to be only a little over 9000 years old, i.e. dating from just inside the Holocene epoch – the first unequivocal proof that this mighty deer did indeed survive beyond the Pleistocene.
But that is not all. On 7 October 2004, once again via a Nature paper, a team of researchers that included Dr Lister revealed via radiocarbon dating of uncovered skeletons that Megaloceros survived in western Siberia until at least circa 5000 BC, i.e. some 3000 years after the ice-sheets receded. Age-wise, these are currently the most recent Megaloceros specimens on record, and demonstrate that the Irish elk existed during the Holocene in two widely separate localities.
One final Megaloceros mystery: On 4 July of this year (2015), Hungarian cryptozoological blogger Orosz István posted a short but very interesting item about a supposed mythological beast that I had never heard of before – the hippocerf (a name combining the Greek for 'horse' with a derivation from the Latin for 'deer'). He stated that it was said to be half horse, half deer (hence its name) and, of particular interest, that some (unnamed) researchers believed that it was based upon a Megaloceros population surviving into historic times. Orosz had obtained his information from a brief entry on this creature that appears on the Cryptidz.Wikia.Com website.
This ShukerNature blog article is an updated excerpt from my book In Search of Prehistoric Survivors.