What is a Unicorn?
The unicorn is a creature of legend. There have been hundreds, if not thousands, of stories about unicorns that date back thousands of years. Nearly every culture on the planet has had stories of unicorns, starting with the Indus Valley Civilization and branching out to Europe, China, and Japan. But what is a unicorn? They are magical creatures that look exactly like a horse except for one key detail. What makes a unicorn a unicorn is its long straight horn that is perched majestically on the horses’ forehead. This creature is revered worldwide and has come to represent purity, innocence, and gentleness.
Are Unicorns Real?
Sadly no. However, when you look a little deeper, there is a little more to it. Unicorns as we know them, the horses with a magical horn, do not exist. There are other animals currently living that may fit that description, however.
One option is the narwhal. Sure, you weren’t expecting to find a unicorn in the ocean, but these small whales have a long tusk protruding from their head much like a unicorn. This tusk is actually a canine tooth.
The second option, and closer to a true unicorn, is the rhino. The rhino, much like a unicorn, is a four-legged creature with a horn found in the middle of its head. Some people even believe that the rhino horn has magical healing properties. WWF even has a “Adopt a Unicorn” program, in which you sponsor a rhino out in the wild.
Where do Unicorns Live?
According to legend, unicorns were often spotted in Europe and North America. Nearly every civilization has had a story about some creature resembling a unicorn.
Unicorns tend to prefer forests. They are known to be timid creatures, and forests give them plenty of places to hide among the trees. On a similar note, mountains are also a popular area for unicorns. Lastly, meadows have been known to attract unicorns. Stories often tell of unicorns meeting maidens out in a meadow of wildflowers.
Did Unicorns Ever Exist?
The traditional version of a unicorn that you might be picturing never did exist. But there was a version of a unicorn that did once live in Siberia.
The Siberian unicorn resembled a giant hairy horse with a massive horn protruding from its head. It was six and a half feet tall on average and weighed about four tonnes. It was last alive somewhere around 29,000 years ago.
What Does a Unicorn Look Like?
A traditional European unicorn looked like a pure white horse with a horn protruding from its forehead. Their mane and tail were always white, and their horns could be white or gold. Today the coloring of a unicorn has changed to include a full array of colors. You can find blue-bodied unicorns with rainbow tails or pink bodies with a main that sparkles and every combination in between.
True unicorns were not winged, as a winged unicorn would actually be an alicorn. A winged horse, on the other hand, is a pegasus.
Other cultures had unicorns that looked quite different from the European version. The Chinese unicorn, for example, the Qilin, had the body of a deer, hooves of a horse, and the trail of an ox with a forked horn. It was black with a yellow belly. The Japanese version of a Qilin (also known as the Kirin) is similar but tends to be more deer-like. Another version of the Kirin is dragon-shaped like a dear with a backward curving horn.
Can Unicorns Talk?
The magic that unicorns possess often lets them speak to humans. However, due to their shy nature, it was very rare to have a unicorn speak to you. It is also said that they can speak any language currently on earth.
According to stories, not all unicorns can speak verbally with humans. Those that do will speak in whatever language that human speaks.
Other unicorns are able to communicate with humans in other ways, such as signs or through magical means. That being said, even if all unicorns can’t speak with humans, they do all understand. While unicorns are able to understand and speak in human languages, they have their own means of speaking with each other. In a way, it is their own language, much like how other animals have their own way of speaking with each other.
What Species are Unicorns?
Unicorns are part of the family Monocerus. At one point, Monocerus referred to a specific type of one-horned creature. This creature had the head of a stag, the body of a horse, the feet of an elephant, and the tail of a boar. Its horn was black. This creature was first described by Pliny the Elder in his book Natural History, which was written sometime after 70 AD.
Since then, Monocerus has come to mean any creature that fits the description of anything resembling a unicorn, in that they have a four-legged body and, most importantly, a single horn.
Understanding these beautiful creatures is intriguing. Knowing what do unicorns represent is important in trying to understand their ways and means.
Where Can I Find a Real Unicorn?
If you are going to hunt down a real unicorn, the first place to look would be Scotland. This country is nestled in the northern half of the British Isles, and they have the interesting distinction of having the unicorn as their national animal.
Another option is Africa. Sure, you probably won’t find a majestic horse with a magical horn there, but you will find rhinos.
The only place that you for sure won’t find a unicorn is Antarctica.
As you are unlikely to find a real unicorn out in the wild, another option is to look for unicorns in books, art, and other media. My Little Pony, for example, has a cast that has many unicorn characters. And of course, we could not forget the beloved The Last Unicorn, a novel by Peter S. Beagle
The unicorn has exploded in popular culture. This elusive creature, once shrouded in myths and legends, has become the forefront of so many toys, games, and other merchandise. They have become particularly popular for young girls, as walking into any store, it’s easy to find unicorn dresses for girls, even unicorn toys for girls. You’ll also have no trouble finding unicorn party supplies for the unicorn-loving child (or adult!) in your life.