Do you believe in unicorns? Beliefs about these magical beings have drifted from stories about forest guardians to symbols of something rare and special.
Do you believe in unicorns? Maybe a better question is: did you grow up playing with Lisa Frank’s sparkly unicorn gear? If so, your mental image of a unicorn may be candy pink and covered in glitter, rainbows, stickers, and stars. Like many ancient myths, unicorns have become much friendlier and cuter over time. Modern depictions of these magical beings have drifted from the untamable guardians of the forest, to become symbols of something rare and special, something you only experience once in life (for example, your childhood).
Are Unicorns Real?
Many ancient cultures believed unicorns were real animals! Images of unicorns (some looked more like goats, others like cows, others like horses) often appear in historical art from Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and other places around the world. Ancient unicorns look like hybrids of existing farm animals, as if the artists decided to combine two familiar four-footed animals and create something new and exotic. If the average person had seen a shaggy goat before, they could easily imagine a *special* goat with a particularly long horn.
Real unicorns were said to be wild and (basically) untamable, so it is likely these myths began with a quick glimpse of a mystery animal in the woods. Sightings were common, proof was not, imagination filled in the blanks. As you know, stories about “the one that got away” tend to become more colorful with each retelling.
In the time before cameras, it would have been difficult to prove what wild animal someone saw, unless they were lucky enough to catch it! In fact, one common theme across these myths is that very few people were worthy, as only the pure of heart could catch a unicorn. This made sightings extra rare, because unicorns were believed to have mystical healing powers, so people wanted to catch and consume them (this led to a booming market for narwhal horns in the Middle Ages).
Unfortunately, science has yet to confirm the existence of the unicorns we see in ancient art. A slender rhino skeleton discovered in Siberia in 2016 is the closest we’ve got, and it’s still pretty far out! Technically, rhinos are the original unicorns (the word means “one horn”) but it seems unlikely they inspired all these stories. They are not graceful animals by any stretch.
What Were the Original Unicorns Like?
It’s clear that ancient peoples had a sense of wonder and curiosity about the natural world. Their lives were greatly affected by forces beyond their control, which led to many stories about supernatural threats and powerful protectors. Folklore is filled with godlike heroes and villains fighting epic battles nonstop in the woods.
Ancient people were also very interested in the behavior of animals and what would happen if two “unlike” animals combined. This is why there are countless mythical hybrids like unicorns, dragons, centaurs, mermaids, phoenixes, dragons, mermaids and more. They believed the chimera would *magically* have the abilities of both animals (and some).
So what were the original unicorns like? In art, their appearance varies, but they are typically depicted as shy animals with hooves, four legs, and a single ivory horn protruding from the forehead. The look is noble, strong, and elegant, like a wild horse.
It’s obvious the magic of unicorns lives on.
H2: Where do Unicorns live?
As mentioned, stories about unicorns appear all around the world, but sadly, there are no fossils (or photographs) to confirm their existence.
These are the real facts about unicorns… Then and now, unicorns live in our imagination as a symbol of something we think is special and worth pursuing. For modern kids, unicorns represent the magic of imagination and play. There’s no need to grow out of this creative state of mind—there are plenty of unicorn-themed gear and costumes designed for adults (as well as kids, of course).
The stories we’ve all heard about unicorns are a great example of what happens when people make the jump from “what is” to “what if” in order to explain something they... can’t explain. This creative leap is nothing new—we still do this all the time.
Considering how popular unicorns are, something about these magical one-horned horse-y animals must really resonate with us. Why do you think we like unicorns so much?