Unicorns are described in legends of various cultures. Some of these ancient descriptions of unicorns are actually not legends, but rather natural history; unicorns were seen as real animals. So, that is the question: Are unicorns real animals?
To find the answer, I will start with the natural history of ancient Greece, which actually introduced the unicorn as a real animal.
Next, we will talk about the Siberian unicorn – a real prehistoric animal that went extinct.
We´re also going to discuss some unicorn sightings and findings, and try to figure out if they are real.
Unicorns in the Natural History of Ancient Greece
In ancient Greece, unicorns were not so much mythology, but a part of natural history. The ancient Greeks believed that unicorns truly lived in India.
A Greek historian Ctesias, who lived around 400 BCE, describes an Indian wild ass size of a horse. According to him, this wild ass was white and it had a purple head and blue eyes. It also had a horn, which was 28 inches or 70 centimeters long.
Read more about the origin of the unicorn myth in this post.
The Siberian Unicorn Was a Real Animal, But It Went Extinct
In the Ice Age, when the mammoths still roamed the Earth, alongside early humans and Neanderthals another peculiar prehistoric animal existed as well.
This animal was Elasmotherium Sibericum, the Siberian Unicorn. Elasmotherium is believed to have existed until up to 35 000 years ago. These gigantic animals weighed around 3500 kilograms (around 7700 lb).
The Siberian unicorn was one of the known species of the large prehistoric rhinoceros. It was hairy, just like another well-known rhinoceros that existed in the ice age, the woolly rhino.
The Siberian unicorn does look more like a rhino than a horse. Typically, rhinos have a horn on their nose, but like a unicorn, the Siberian unicorn had a horn on its forehead.
Evolution Could Have Created a Horse-Like Unicorn
However, the Siberian unicorn proves, that the typical image of a unicorn as a horse-like animal with a single horn on its forehead is not just a random myth.
In fact, the rhinoceros and Equidae or horse animals are classified under the same taxonomic order, Perissodactyla, or odd-toed ungulates. The earliest rhinocerotoids were small hornless animals that looked like tapirs or small horses.
Since the early rhinocerotoids were hornless, a horn could have evolved into a trait of another odd-toed ungulate as well; the horse.
If the horse animals had generated a horn instead of their distant relatives, rhinos, the horse-like unicorns might really exist! Who knows, maybe there could even be unicorn zebras.
Would horses need a horn, though? Probably not, because if they did, they would have them.
Rhinos need their horns for defending themselves and their offspring (mostly their offspring, because adult rhinos don´t actually have natural enemies, except for human poachers). Rhinos are heavy and large animals, so they´re not probably very fast runners or good kickers.
Horses have a very different body structure than rhinos; horses are much slimmer, and they have long legs. They are fast runners, so they can escape from predators.
They are also good at kicking with their long legs, which is also how the stallions fight with each other, while the male rhinos fight each other with their horns.
In history, some skeleton findings have been thought to be skeletons of unicorns. Probably the most famous of these findings was made in 1663. This skeleton had only two legs, but it had a horse skull with a long horn.
A German scientist Otto von Guericke was convinced the skeleton had belonged to a unicorn. Gottfried Leibniz, a German polymath, and philosopher agreed with the unicorn theory as well. The unicorn skeleton got written in a book of natural history.
Today, this “unicorn skeleton” is believed to be fake. Probably it was Otto Von Guericke himself, who constructed the fake unicorn skeleton out of different bones. Apparently, Otto Von Guericke really wanted to believe in unicorns, so he made one.
In the 17th century, Von Guericke´s contemporaries fully believed in unicorns, so they did not suspect the authenticity of the skeleton. The evolution theory was not published yet, so even scientists did not consider whether it was logical, that a horse-like animal with a long horn on its head could have existed.
Are Unicorns Real Animals? – Incredible Unicorn Sightings
It is not a surprise, that many people claim they have seen unicorns. You can even find some YouTube videos showing unicorn sightings.
Some breeders twist cow´s or goat´s horns so that they fuse together and grow into one horn instead of two. Personally, I think that kind of manipulation goes too far, no matter how much you like unicorns.
Sometimes, these kinds of unicorns are born naturally. In 2008, a unicorn deer, “Prato unicorn”, was born in a wildlife park in Italy. According to the park director, the unicorn deer was very shy.
In 1991, an Austrian university professor Antal Festetics claimed he saw a unicorn in the Harz mountains. This happens to be the same place where the unicorn skeleton was found in the 17th century.
Was the skeleton real after all? If unicorns do live somewhere today, I would imagine it would be in some beautiful remote mountain area with waterfalls.
Another claimed unicorn sighting case happened in Don Valley, Canada in 2010. There´s a video on YouTube about this unicorn too, but this video looks very fake in my opinion.
Do You Believe in Unicorns?
We have discussed unicorn sightings and findings throughout history, and it is time to decide, are unicorns real animals or not.
The Siberian unicorn has been proven real, but it was not exactly like we normally imagine a unicorn. It rather reminded a rhino. Nevertheless, technically it was a unicorn.
The unicorn skeleton found in Germany in the 17th century was apparently a hoax. However, when Antal Festetics claimed in 1991 he saw a unicorn in the same place where the skeleton was found, the unicorn skeleton being real was a possibility again.
A unicorn sighting also took place in Don Valley, Canada, in 2010. Video footage was taken, but the video looks totally fake.
Unicorn deer, goats, and other animals have appeared. A unicorn deer was born naturally in Italy in 2008. Cattle breeders also manipulate the animals’ horns, so that they fuse together and grow as a single horn. Thus, these animals are unicorns, although they are not like horses.
In a conclusion, yes, unicorns are real animals, if you don´t expect them to look like horses. The Siberian unicorn was a real species. Today, there are individual, normally two-horned animals like deer and goats, that have only one horn.
How about the white, magical horse-like unicorn we dream about? I´d like to ask, do you have to see a unicorn to make it real? Even if the YouTube videos on unicorn sightings would be fake, it doesn´t mean unicorns don´t exist.
As long as unicorns bring you joy, I think they are real. Many people believe in God and angels. Many people also believe in unicorns. If you do as well, it´s perfectly fine, my friend.
What do you think about the unicorn sightings and findings we talked about in today´s post? Do you think they are real or fake?
Let me know your opinion, are unicorns real animals? Do you believe in unicorns? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!