A Brief History of the Unicorn

Unicorn

Image from: Martyn nd Debz

There is a lot of debate about the reality of the elusive unicorn & there are a lot of believers out there. This is an elusive creature said to possess great powers and pureness, & interestingly enough they have a presence in the mythology of many independent cultures around the world.

But Where Do They Come From?

The idea that so many different places share similar lore could mean that such an animal existed. Different theories circulate within these cultures as to how the animal came to captivate people and create its place in history.

Surprisingly, few of them have anything to do with horses at all.

Unicorns Through History

Because there is no actual fact or scientific evidence to support the existence of the unicorn, it is essentially thought of as a creature of mythology and folk lore. The symbolism and faith attached to the animal has kept it alive in enough minds to make it almost real through that collective belief. Here are some of those global stories…

Unicorns in the East

Chinese Unicorn

Chinese Unicorn

Image from: kevinpoh

The white horse we think of as a unicorn today is not necessarily the same animal that emerged from Chinese folklore where stories of its existence began 5000 years ago. To the Chinese the unicorn was called ki-lin or qilin and it was an omen that all was well with the world, (perhaps the reason we haven’t seen one in a while).

It is also believed that the unicorn foretold the birth of Confucius, by visiting his pregnant mother in the woods one day and bringing her a piece of jade. The man himself was later reported to having seen the unicorn himself, interpreting it as a message of his impending death.

Japanese Unicorn

Japanese Unicorn

The Japanese call the unicorn Kirin and his likeness is supposed to be more that of a bull with a long shaggy mane. Quite different from most interpretations of this beast, the Japanese unicorn is an animal to be feared, especially if you have guilt in your heart.

How the Unicorn Saved India

India Unicorn
Legend has it that it was a unicorn that saved India from Genghis Khan’s ravaging armies. The tale says that as Genghis Khan prepared to invade India he was met by a unicorn who knelt in front of him. He took this as a sign from the heavens telling him not to attack and turned away.

Unicorns in the West

Unicorn Cave Art in France

Unicorn Cave Art
Lascaux cave art in southwestern France, (the unicorn is on the left), this is some of the most well known Upper Paleolithic art and dates back to around 14,000 BC. This is a section of around 2000 animal representations in this cave, some of which include horses too.

Bucephalus

Bucephalus and Alexander the Great
After that, the first mentions of a unicorn in the western world are in the 3rd and 4th century BC. Aristotle was a believer, as was Alexander the Great who rode the mighty Bucephalus into battle and Julius Caesar who claimed he saw one deep in the forests of Germany. Even Marco Polo was later said to have seen a unicorn the size of an elephant on his many travels to Asia.

Medieval Unicorn

Medieval Unicorn

The unicorn of midieval times is said to be a wild beast which is impossible to tame. In fact the only way to tame one is to lay a virgin maiden as bait and wait until a unicorn wanders along and lays its head in her lap. Although much of the unicorn art that comes from this time depicts the maiden having tricked the unicorn by trapping him for an accomplice to slay.

Tales of the mighty unicorn from this time are largely biblical in source and the animal was thought to symbolize Christ himself in many respects.

In the Bible

Unicorn in the Bible

Believe it or not, there is even several mentions of unicorns in the bible, (in the King James version anyway).

Book of Psalms

Psalm 92:10
But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an unicorn: I shall be anointed with fresh oil.

Psalm 22:21
Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.

Psalm 29:6
He maketh them also to skip like a calf; Lebanon and Sirion like a young unicorn.

Book of Numbers

Numbers 23:22
God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn.

Book of Job

Job 39:9-12
9 Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib?
10 Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? or will he harrow the valleys after thee?
11 Wilt thou trust him, because his strength is great? or wilt thou leave thy labour to him?
12 Wilt thou believe him, that he will bring home thy seed, and gather it into thy barn?

Book of Isaiah

Isaiah 34:7
And the unicorns shall come down with them, and the bullocks with the bulls; and their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness.

Book of Numbers

Numbers 23:22
God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn.

Deuteronomy

Deuteronomy 33:17
His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth: and they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh.

The Decision Is Yours

Whether or not you believe, be sure to check out some unicorn art too.

35 Comments on “A Brief History of the Unicorn

  1. Hayleigh Sommers

    Unicorns r sexy and we (my friends and i) have a unicorn named Lloyd and a Cletusseta (a rare form of cletus which is part llama, bird shark and dino) he is hot/ sext too! ? Hayleigh

    Reply
  2. Samilla

    My novel, Silverwood, depicts a magical unicorn who escapes from the garden keep into the land of Acerbus (green land) our Earth. Without his presence in the mystical land of Silverwood, the essence of their good magic is replaced by loathing and foreboding, due to the paradigm shift in their land.

    Reply
  3. Ellen

    hey I love all this myth stuff, actually horses in myth are kinda my thing so I love the pictures. I dont want to appear rude or anything but your bible quotes are wrong, I think I know what site they are from but if you have a bible on hand you may want to check it. Pretty much all those verses have to do with oxen or calves. Anyway I love your site and I read it everyday, keep looking for more stuff theres creatures there I havent even heard of before! =)

    Reply
    1. angelica

      if narwhales are real then unicors could of been real, the were probly just eaiser to hunt down because they where on land, narwhales are almost extinct:D

      Reply
  4. Emma Watson

    Unicorns are consiered to be very powerful and are very popular in the United Kingdom! i love them they’re so beautiful!

    Reply
    1. Mrs. Unicorn

      Yes, I know. You are my husband, are you not? Now get home for dinner, my love. We’re having cabbage stew, your favorite. (With carrots of course.) XOXO, your loving wife :)

      Reply
  5. annieoakley

    I’ve read before that the well-known European legends of unicorns had to do with the first explorers returning from Africa and most likely along the Silk Road. They came home talking about large gray beasts with horns sprouting from the middle of their heads. The largest gray animals known to Europeans in the Middle Ages were horses, which is where the idea came from. Naturally, we now understand these horned gray animals to be the rhinoceros.
    PS- the spiraled horn myth also may have resulted from the tusks of dead male narwhals washing ashore.
    *** myths and legends give a fascinating look at previous lifetimes!

    Reply
    1. Risuna

      how interesting – i find it amusing & annoying all at the same time how history gets twisted over the years & the true story is lost w/in the lies – I like the idea though that we haven’t seen Unicorns cause the world is in chaos – this world is undeserving of these mystikal creatures

      Reply
  6. MaryEllen

    Interesting from a mythological point of view. The bible part proves nothing, I only found it to have the name unicorn in the KJV, seven others I checked said wild bull, wild ox, or rhinocerous. But it is still fascinating, the cultural variations on this mythical creature. Personally, I like Charlie the unicorn.

    Reply
  7. Maddie

    I f-ing love unicorns.they are sexy and amazing! they are so cool!!! this comment is for u Annie because we have sexy times! <3<3

    Reply
  8. Meow... i'm a dog

    I love animals! unicorns r fascinating! i wish i could have one as a pet! They live in the magical forests ;)

    Reply
  9. vicki lukco

    Has anyone ever heard that supposedly the ‘Unicorn’ does not exist today is because it say’s in the Bible that it was the only animal that disobeyed God when Moses gathered all animals in the Ark, so God banished it from the earth for this disobedience?

    Reply

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