15. The Myth of the Unicorn
Children around the world have grown up hearing tales of the fantastical creatures known as unicorns. Majestic horses with a large horn on their foreheads, unicorns have dominated children’s media for decades. Whether it be My Little Pony or The Last Unicorn, these fairy tale creatures have delighted millions around the world. But what if they actually existed?
14. The Animal Behind the Myth
According to historians that date back to the 5th century B.C., the animal that the unicorn myth derived from was actually quite terrifying and more like a creature that exists in your worst nightmares. And now, scientists have found fossils that these “unicorns” actually existed. Let’s just say…you won’t sleep after reading about these monsters.
13. Historical Documentation
Long before unicorns were popular in the media, these animals were mentioned on numerous occasions in Greek myths. While many blew off the unicorn as a mystical being of legend, to the Greeks they were actually a real animal from India. Although, based on what we know about them we wouldn’t want to come face-to-face with one.
12. The First Accounts
One of the first accounts of a unicorn came from the Greek historian Ctesias in the 5th century B.C. He described the creatures as donkeys with long horns. That doesn’t sound too far off does it? Well, another account mentions that this creature had the head of a stag, feet like an elephant, a tale of a boar, and the rest of the body looked like a horse. We’re having a hard time picturing such an oddball animal!
11. Beyond the Reaches of Europe
The unicorn wasn’t restricted to simply European myths. Both China and Japan had their own versions of the creature, known as the qilin and kirin. In China, it is believed the qilin appears to someone before the birth or death of someone prominent in their life. Their version was described as having a scaly deer body with a curled horn and lion’s head. Yeah, it’s certainly NO My Little Pony.
10. Into the Middle Ages
More accounts of the unicorn are mentioned later in history as we cross into the Middle Ages. The Alexandrian merchant known as Cosmas Indicopleustas wrote that during his travels he came across tales of the unicorn in Ethiopia. Apparently, the people there described the creature as a ferocious beast that was meant to be feared.
9. 7th Century Sightings
While the unicorn had yet to become the mythical creature it is today, during the 7th century the Saint Isidore of Seville wrote in his journals about a creature like the unicorn that was considered to be a strong animal that could kill elephants with its long horn. During this time the animal was still described as being like a goat or donkey in appearance.
8. Vikings Take Advantage
The Vikings were known to profit from the belief that unicorn horns had magical properties and would often hunt the narwal whale for their horns. They would then pass off the horns as unicorn horns to the gullible merchants looking to improve their lives via magic.
7. Unicorn Inspiration
There were other animals that fueled the unicorn myth throughout the centuries. Some animals that were said to have inspired the fable were the oryx, eland and aurochs. The rhinoceros in India is also believed to have been labeled as a unicorn at one point in time as well.
6. The 1808 Discovery
However, in 1808 a new species was discovered known as the Elasmotherium. Only a few fossils had been discovered at the time with the creature being extinct for over 350,000 years. Is it possible that this could be a real unicorn?
5. New Theories and Speculations
Throughout the 19th century, scientists believed that the Elasmotherium might have had a single horn at the time. A distant cousin of the rhinoceros, a Russian zoologist named Alexander Brandt believes that all signs point to the existence of one large horn due to a wealth of blood vessels accumulating at a certain point in the base of the skull.
4.The Unicorn was Real
According to Brandt, he suspects the Siberian Elasmotherium was the origin for the unicorn myth. The only problem with this theory is the species is believed to have been extinct long before humans ever existed, so they wouldn’t have seen them. So how is it possible there are human records of seeing such a beast?
3. An Amazing New Find
Everything changed in March 2016 when a new fossil was discovered in Kazakhstan. A large Elasmotherium skull was found and dated much earlier than previously believed. It threw everything archaeologists knew about the species out the window and dated its extinction was only 29,000 years ago. This means humans would definitely have been around to see it.
2. Not the Most Majestic Creature in the World
Sadly, if you were expecting the Elasmotherium to look like something straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon you’ll be sadly mistaken. This creature stood anywhere from six to seven feet tall and was roughly 15-feet long. As for the white, majestic fur? Forget it! This monster was covered in course brown hair like a woolly mammoth and most likely weighed up to four tons. Even worse, the horn is thought to have been up to six feet long!
1. Where the Unicorns Roam
Based on where the fossils have been discovered, it’s believed that the Elasmotherium were mainly located in western Siberia and southern Russia. Thankfully, despite its scary looks and demeanor, the animal was mostly harmless and a strict herbivore. Although, most predators steered clear of its large horn.
It is believed the species died out from a large meteor impact close to 30,000 years ago. While modern humans most likely never encountered one alive, stories of the animal were passed down generation to generation, eventually leading to the unicorn myth we know today!