Set-beast investigation #1: Saiga Antelope

There are many theories about whether the Set-beast is based on a real animal, whether it is a compilation of creatures (like Ammit), or a completely mythological being.
While watching the ‘Grasslands’ episode of Sir David Attenborough’s ‘Planet Earth II’ I came face to face with an Ice Age relic: the Saiga Antelope. Just look at that nose! How can you not see a resemblance to the Egyptian God Set when you look at it?

By Vladimir Yu. Arkhipov, Arkhivov – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

As you can imagine I was quite excited, and did a lot of searching online for more information. The current population are mainly based in the Eurasian Steppes, but they once reached as far west as North America and as far north as Britain and pushing into the Arctic. I was desperately hoping to find some kind of connection to Egypt, or even North Africa but to no avail. It seems that while most antelope species originated in Africa the subspecies the Saiga belongs to evolved in Eurasia. I couldn’t find any evidence or mention of fossils being found in North Africa. It’s unfortunate but it means that I now know a little more about an incredibly rare animal.

Saiga are herboivores and rely on grasslands and migrating to follow their food source. In more recent decades borders between countries have been a major factor in stopping the Saiga getting to their seasonal feeding grounds. In 2015 an infection with close to a 100% mortality rate decimated the population in Kazakhstan. Members of the Planet Earth II TV crew filming the “Grasslands” episode “… were left heartbroken… after they witnessed the mass death of 150,000 antelope over three days.” (1)

The Saiga Conservation Alliance has updates on their work to help this critically endangered species. You can find more information about current efforts to help the Saiga on their website:


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