The unicorn is a well-known animal from European folklore that resembles a white horse with a large, pointed, spiralling horn projecting from its forehead, and sometimes a goat’s beard and cloven hooves, Its horn was said to have the power to make poisoned water drinkable and to cure bad health.
First mentioned by the ancient Greeks, it became the most important fantasy animal of the Middle Ages when it was commonly described as a very wild woodland creature, a symbol of purity and charm, which could only be captured by a virgin.
Medieval knowledge of the fabulous beast stemmed from biblical and ancient sources, and the creature was variously represented as a kind of wild ass, goat, or horse.
In the 19th century, belief in unicorns was widespread especially among poets and writers.
Cave drawings in Lascaux, France depict a horse-like animal with a single straight horn
The Unicorn has been a part of the Royal Seal of Scotland since the 1300s. When James became king of both Scotland and England, he redrew the Royal Coat of Arms to include both the Lion of England and the Scottish Unicorn.
The royal throne of Denmark was said to be made of “unicorn horns” – almost certainly narwhal tusks. The same substance was used for royal cups because the unicorn’s horn continued to be believed to counteract poison,
Leonardo Da Vinci’s Maiden with a Unicorn (late 1470s) shows a placid, small but horse-shaped unicorn leashed and under the rule of a maiden.
Leonardo wrote: “For the love it bears to fair maidens (the unicorn) forgets its ferocity and wildness and laying aside all fear it will go to a seated damsel and sleep in her lap, and thus the hunters take it.”
The unicorn is still well loved today and features in many books, films, toys and games.
So, were there ever any unicorns, or was it just a myth? You decide……..