Horses are wonderful animals – no need to tell you about it – but what about their mythical counterparts, the unicorns? These gorgeous beasts, pure, perfect, carriers of good fortune and in love with beautiful young maidens, are animals of legends around the world. Or are they?
The fact that so many countries and cultures tell tales of one-horned animals that are impossible to tame and incredibly strong points to the possibility that they might have, in fact, existed at one point in time. This extraordinary beast in question is the same everywhere – a four-legged mammal, similar to a horse, with just one horn in the middle of its forehead.
The reason some may talk about this mysterious magical phenomenon as an actual extinct species is that the Bible has passages that mention this sort of animal. Perhaps it wasn’t specifically like they are portrayed in fantasy novels and fairy-tale movies, but why wouldn’t there be an animal with just one horn? After all, many species have horns on the front of their heads and, even though not one of them has only a single one, the idea of another animal bearing a unique horn is plausible.
However, this may never be resolved. Scientists have never found proof of any kind that there may have been such a species, so for the time being, we can only speculate.
As for the myths and legends, China seems to be the first one ever – if we rule out the Christian Bible – to mention unicorns, around 2700 BC. It was part of the group of “four auspicious animals”, which also included the dragon, phoenix and tortoise. Since this animal lived for a thousand years, it was much wiser than any other. However, unlike the European unicorn, the Chinese version was more of a cross between a lion and a dragon and his horn grew backwards.
In the western world, Greeks are the ones who initiated stories of this incredible animal around 400 BC. They described it as an animal that resembled an ass and lived in India. Interestingly enough, they also said that the head was purple, but this may very well be just because this colour was expensive and only royalty could afford to wear it. The tail was like a lion’s, and the hoofs like a goat’s. Although this unicorn slightly in many ways from its Chinese counterpart, they are both extremely swift, incredibly strong, live alone and fight fiercely.
We do also have to take into account that in the days when these tales were told, the world was not well known, and it would have been quite possible that the writers attempted to imagine the unicorns from hearing about them. This means that those that described these animals may very well have been talking about other species who, seen from the wrong angle, could have appeared to have only one horn, such as the wild oryx in the Arabian dessert.
However, at times, I let myself believe that unicorns once walked this land, even for just a moment – just to allow my inner child savour the thought.
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