Are Unicorns Real?

By | September 7, 2019

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Two white unicorns. Source: (

While today unicorns are thought of as fairy tale creatures, ancient cultures believed them to be real, even including them in their natural history books. While there is no scientific evidence that a magical single-horned horse exists - or has ever existed - many believe the unicorn legend to have been inspired by a real animal.

While the most common representation of the unicorn today is derived from European mythology, similar creatures can be found in various cultures across the world. Chinese mythology tells of a creature known as the qilin which has the body of a deer, the head of a lion, green scales, and a single longhorn. Japanese culture has a similar creature called the kirin. Legends of the African Congo tell of a creature called the Ababda which is the size of a donkey and has the tail of boar; however, this creature has two horns instead of one. In Chile, a creature known as the camahueto resembles a single-horned bull. But it was European mythology that depicted the unicorn as a white horse with a single long horn.

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Narwhal horn. Source: (

What all of these unicorn-like creatures shared was magical powers, usually some sort of healing power, and an association with purity. And the unicorn’s horn was believed to be the source of their powers. The horn was thought to consist of a substance call alicorn which could heal various ailments, purify water, and protect against poison. As a result, unicorn horns were a prized possession for which the wealthy were willing to pay a high price. In fact, traders from outside of Europe made a fortune by passing off rhinoceros horns and narwhal horns as unicorn horns.