Ancient Rhino May Be The Origin of the Unicorn Myth

Unicorns are one of the more popular mythical creatures with their horn sticking out of their forehead. It's a horse with a horn on its head, it looks pretty and some children like it. Well, what if the idea for unicorns were actually based on a dinosaur? An ancient rhino to be precise.

Known as the Siberian unicorn, the animal had a long horn on its nose, and roamed the grasslands of Eurasia. New evidence shows the hefty beast may have eventually died out because it was such a picky eater.
Weighing in at a mighty four tonnes, with an extraordinary single horn on its head, the "Siberian unicorn", shared the earth with early modern humans up until at least 39,000 years ago.

Learn more about this picky beast from Helen Briggs' article on The BBC.

(Image credit: W.S. van der Merwe)

Newest 5
Newest 5 Comments

I think it is human nature to combine all that is primeval and dangerous into a super beast. Most seem to be mash-ups of the scariest critters around. Big predators who can eat you; flying animals that can attack from the sky; and combined with some sort of reptile. Add the ability to make fire, and you have something to scare the folks with. Reptiles are particularly scary. Ever see a cuddly baby gator or a Cute Komodo dragon? Nope. They are hatched ready to hunt and kill. Combine that with dinosaur fossils which may have been seen, and you know there have been huge monsters from way back. In fact, ground dragon (dinosaur) bones were sold as medicine in Chinese apothecary shops until fairly recently.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Quite a time frame: The Early Modern age runs from about 1500-1800. The Dark Ages (sometimes called "Early Medieval") can range from 400 to about 1000 AD. Most of the surviving Medieval tapestries I am aware of, come from the late 1400s-early 1500s, and show unicorns as clearly equine in appearance --although some show goat-like beards and cloven hooves. Could you link to some of the goat/unicorn images?
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I spent some time looking into that when I was younger, and in my opinion, that has to do more with lazy translation that they all fall under the same name. Many of them are not that similar, as some are based on fish, some are based on serpents, and others a mishmash of other animals. The result is a word that is used for creatures that may or may not fly, may or may not have scales, may or may not have wings. Legends about large creatures seem almost universal, but they are often adapted to locales, like how many cultures have legends of people that can turn into an animal, but usually the particular animal depends on what is the scariest thing around (wolves, jaguars, tigers, hyenas, etc.).
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Login to comment.

Email This Post to a Friend
"Ancient Rhino May Be The Origin of the Unicorn Myth"

Separate multiple emails with a comma. Limit 5.


Success! Your email has been sent!

close window

This website uses cookies.

This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using this website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

I agree
Learn More