The unicorn, also known as the one-horned horse, is a much-loved mythical animal born from inspiration from some real-life animals.
The unicorn unicorn is one of the most famous mythical creatures. The breed is described as a white horse with a spiral-shaped horn growing from its forehead. For most of the mythical creature’s history, people thought it actually existed. But where did the myth of the unicorn come from?
The unicorn-like image dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization, circa 3300 BC to 1300 BC in South Asia, which is present-day Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India.
The image of a one-horned animal has been found on some seals from the Indus Valley civilization. Seals with such designs are said to bear signs of high status in society at that time.
However, according to experts at the St Neots Museum, the images are likely depictions of Bos primigenius, a now-extinct species of wild bovine.
Meanwhile, according to the American Museum of Natural History, the Chinese written description of an Asian unicorn dates to around 2700 BC.
The white one-horned horse, sometimes depicted with extra wings, is much loved
In Chinese culture, a unicorn is a creature similar to the mythical Chimera, with the body of a deer, the head of a lion, green scales, and a long, forward-curved horn.
This is also the animal often depicted in ancient Mesopotamian art, having only one horn, no wings.
This unicorn appears to be a combination of different animals, with the body of a deer, the tail of a bull, a multicolored coat or scales resembling a dragon, and a horn of flesh.
Asian unicorns have been described as solitary, reclusive creatures, similar to those noted in later European records of unicorns.
In Western literature, the first recorded mention of unicorns is in the fourth century BC. Ctesias was a physician and historian who wrote stories of Indian travelers.
They describe the horses as being the size of a “wild donkey” with a white body, blue eyes, a red head and a multicolored horn, about 50cm long. Ctesias’ unicorn is based on descriptions of many animals such as wild donkeys and Indian rhinoceros.
In Greek mythology, unicorns do not appear. Greek scholars of natural history believe that unicorns lived in India, a remote and wonderful place for them.