Happy birthday to my cousin who loved unicorns way before it was cool. I remember one of the coolest items she had when we were growing up was a beautiful pearlescent white unicorn with a gold horn. It just made sense she had it... While the rest of us kids were a penguin, a rabbit, a turtle and a hammerhead...she was a unicorn. It definitely brought a massive smile to my face when she requested a unicorn for her birthday Daily Doodle. I wanted to know how long unicorns have "existed".
Milleniums before the pearly white unicorn of European lore, a one-horned, magical creature was said to roam the Eastern world... the Asian unicorn. This creature was first mentioned in writing around 2700 BC. It had a scaly coat--or multicolored in blue, black, red, white and yellow, a deer's body, a flesh-covered horn (sometimes two or even three horns), and the tail of an ox. This unicorn was described as a creature of great power and wisdom, avoiding fights at all costs and walks so softly it wouldn't even crush a blade of grass. As with the European unicorn, the Asian unicorn enjoys solitude and cannot be captured. Its rare appearances were said to be an omen, celebrating a just and wise ruler.
An ancient story from China says thousands of years ago, the sage Fu Hsi was sitting by a river when he was splashed with water. Raising his eyes, he saw the unicorn, which the Chinese call the qilin ("chee-lin"), wading carefully through the river. The animal resembled a deer but had shining scales like a dragon. A single horn grew from its forehead. Its back was covered with strange signs and magic symbols. As the qilin walked away, Fu Hsi grabbed a stick and traced the symbols as best he could in the dirt. According to legend, Confucius, the Chinese philosopher was the last person to see an Asian unicorn.
More than 2,000 years ago, Greek travelers told tales of unicorns living in far-off lands. As the fabulous accounts spread around the Western world, few people questioned that unicorns actually existed. About 300 BC, scholars translating the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek concluded that the Hebrew term re'em referred to a unicorn.
Many stories of unicorns refer to the magical properties of their horns. This claim was first made by a Greek physician named Ctesias nearly 2,000 years ago. Those lucky enough to possess a horn might take advantage of its wide range of healing properties, from detecting and neutralizing poisons and curing fevers to prolonging youth and acting as an aphrodisiac.
Fast forward to Europe only a few hundred years ago. In stories, unicorns live deep in the forest and are rarely seen by people. They have white coats, though some early authors and artists described it as yellowish red, or even brown. Usually with a horse's body, often with cloven hooves like a goat... however, sometimes the entire body looks like a goat. They have a long, spiraled horn, but early Greek naturalists described a shorter, blunter horn colored red, black and white. Most with a goat's beard and the tail of a lion, though some descriptions include the tail of a horse, goat, or boar.
James III, King of Scotland from 1460 to 1488, issued several coins that featured unicorns. They can also symbolize majesty and power. Strong and powerful unicorns are featured on the Royal Arms of both Scotland and the United Kingdom even today. Unicorns remain objects of wonder and beauty around the world.