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Could Unicorns Exist?


So. Unicorns. Do we need to go over the basics? They're white horses with one twisted horn in the center of their forehead. Other details of their appearance and their powers vary with the time period.


The ancient Greeks were the first to record unicorns, not as mythical creatures, but as actual natural things found in India, at that time a distant and mystical realm in relation to Greece. The first-ever description of them, found in a book called Indika (On India), describes them as fleet-footed wild asses with a horn two and a quarter feet long.

However several seals from the Indus Valley have what look like unicorns on them (above) dated about 2000 years before the Ancient Greeks began to flourish. It is debatable whether they are unicorns or cows with two horns but printed with bad perspective. 

Moving on to the Middle Ages. A mistranslation in the King James Version of the Bible meant that Unicorns were incorrectly substituted for rhinos, bulls or ox. Subsequently, a lot of religious art began to feature unicorns.

In Daniel a single-horned goat is described:

And as I was considering, behold, a he-goat came from the west over the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground: and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes.
- Daniel 8:5

Popular stories in the Middle Ages involved unicorns being attracted to virgins, or representing Christ.
"Unicorn horns" were probably sourced from narwhal tusks.

Authors began to write about unicorn horns having magical properties. Cups were made of "unicorn horns," most likely narwhal tusks, thought to neutralize poison. Horns of unicorns were made of a substance called "Alicorn," thought to cure disease and detect poison. They were very valuable and were mostly sold powdered. The throne chair of Denmark was made of unicorn horns.

Moving on to the Renaissance. Beliefs stayed pretty much the same about what the unicorn actually did. Unicorns appeared in a lot of tapestries.

The unicorn, through its intemperance and not knowing how to control itself, for the love it bears to fair maidens forgets its ferocity and wildness; and laying aside all fear it will go up to a seated damsel and go to sleep in her lap, and thus the hunters take it.
- Leonardo Da Vinci
Arms of Ramosch, a district in Switzerland

By the 15th century, no one really believed in unicorns as real animals anymore. However, it continued to be used frequently in heraldry, representing Christ's incarnation, animal passion, and many other things. A collared unicorn showed it to have been tamed, and an uncollared one showed it to be free. Often it represents a haughty being that would rather die than be imprisoned and was chosen as the heraldic symbol for Scotland.

Popular culture depicts unicorns as friendly white pony-like creatures that either fart rainbows or at least have extremely colorful manes. Companies market anything involving glitter or rainbows as unicorn related and the world, in general, seems pretty crazy about unicorns.

So could they exist?

Right. Now we get to the sciencey bit. How do we have a creature that somewhat resembles a horse to grow a horn?

Actually, studies have shown that with animals like goats and sheep horn buds can be transplanted to the center of the forehead and will continue to grow there.

So that's that problem wrapped up. *begins to leave*

But wait! "What about the healing properties of Alicorn?" I hear you saying. *sits down again*

Hmm, that's tricky. Natural healing things...

  • Proteins in the venoms of some snakes can treat things like strokes as well as preventing blood clots.
  • Saliva of most animals contains disinfectants
  • Many animals have the ability to regrow limbs and heal themselves.

But horns can't really have venom or saliva glands, and in any case, the unicorn would have to stab its patients to administer the healing chemicals.

The bottom line: Unicorns in the definitive sense can exist, if we are talking about just single-horned four-legged mammals. However, they would lack supernatural abilities. Including rainbow farts.


Comment below!

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