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The Secret Life of Unicorns

Updated on August 23, 2017

Most Common Questions about Unicorns

Unicorns are admired across the world and many questions have been asked about their background, appearances and alleged magical powers.

Is the Unicorn from Asia, or is he European? How can you tell the difference?

When was a unicorn last sighted?

Where can I find a unicorn and do I have to be a fair maiden?

Read on , for everything you wanted to know about unicorns but were too shy to ask.

"Well, now that we have seen each other," said the Unicorn, "If you'll believe in me, then I'll believe in you".

"If you like", said Alice. - Through the Looking Glass

Where do Unicorns come from?

There are two competing theories

There are two very different schools of thought when it comes to the Unicorn. Some say he is most definitely Asian, while others say he can only be from Europe.

Let me state my position first. When it comes to unicorns I follow the European theory and in no way do I pretend to be impartial.

Purists believe that the K'i-lin of China is the definitive unicorn, a powerful creature who has shaped much of the history of the region. They maintain that all other unicorns are, at best, a pale copy of the wise K'i-lin, or even, (so some followers of this theory dare to suggest), merely an imaginary creature.

There is much erudite discussion and scholarly dispute but no agreement has yet been reached on which is the 'true' unicorn and which is the 'copy'. On this vexatious issue, the jury is still out.

My money is on the European Unicorn, dream visitor of the Caucasian subconscious.

But first, let's consider the Asian version.......

K'i-Lin, the Chinese Unicorn

Comparable in power and wisdom to the Dragon, the K'i-lin is seen rarely, but his appearance almost always means good news.

He has the body of a stag, the hooves of a horse, the tail of an ox, a long horn on his forehead and a magnificent multi-coloured coat in the five sacred colours - red, yellow, blue, white, and black.

Emperor Fu Hsi met a K'i-lin in the Spring of 2800 BCE. With admirable presence of mind he closely examined the pattern on the colourful pelt. He discovered that the markings were symbols which revealed the written Chinese language.

And that's how the ancient script of China began!

In the 6th century, a K'i-lin approached a woman named Yen Chen-tsi and gave her a jade tablet on which it was written that she would be the mother of a king. A king who had no throne. Some years later, Yen Chen-tsi gave birth to a son. His name was Confucius.

Kirin, the Japanese Unicorn

In Japan, the Kirin is able to detect guilt, and he was called upon in tricky cases. He would stare eerily at the guilty party and then use his horn to pierce the culprit through the heart.

The Kirin and the K'i-lin are wondrous beasts indeed, but are they unicorns?

A pair of unicorns is called a 'Charm'

Monoceros Europorum

Unicorn at Dusk
Unicorn at Dusk | Source

The European Unicorn

You must know yourself what the European Unicorn looks like, almost every illustration which you see is of the Monoceros Europorum.

Unicorns are almost always white, a pure fresh white or else shades of cream and ivory. His horn is white too, straight, and sharply pointed. I say "almost always" for there have been unsubstantiated reports of unicorns with coats of midnight black.

Stallions are the same size as common or garden horses while females are slightly smaller. All unicorns have well developed manes and tails which are moderately long and fairly shaggy, while the older male sports a beard under the chin.

His eyes, either dark blue or star-lit brown, are very large, much larger than those we see in horses. They communicate with us (if we are lucky enough, and good enough) through telepathic means.

The First Recorded Sighting of the European Unicorn

And the powers of transmutation

We first hear of the European Unicorn from the Greek historian, Ctesia of Cnidus.

At the end of the 5th Century BCE Ctesia described an ass-like creature in India with the head of a deer, the body of a horse, the tail of a lion, the feet of a goat, blue eyes and one white horn on its forehead.

"Those who drink from these horns, made into drinking vessels, are not subject, they say, either to convulsions or to the falling sickness. They are immune even to poisons if, either before or after swallowing such, they drink water, wine, or anything from these beakers."

This is obviously a unicorn. The horn of the unicorn transmutes, and renders harmless, all the deadly poisons known to Man.

Unicorns for the Younger Ones

The Lion and the Unicorn from Babylon

The Grandmother of all European Unicorns

The progenitor of all European unicorns is from Babylon where, in a story familiar to readers from the British Isles, he battles with a lion.

The unicorn represented Spring and the lion represented Summer, each year the two would fight for supremacy, and each year the lion would win.

The magnificent lion was the heraldry of England and a nursery rhyme summed up past battles with Scotland. The English invariably won.

The lion and the unicorn

Were fighting for the crown

The lion beat the unicorn

All round about the town.

Since Robert III, the Unicorn of Purity had been a part of the official seal of Scotland. When James VI of Scotland also became James I of England, a new coat of arms which included the lion and the unicorn was drawn up. King James seemed to be unaware of the irony.

The Lion and the Unicorn still support the royal shield on the coats of arms of Britain and Canada. Australia, with no sense of heraldry or good taste, replaced them with a Kangaroo and Emu.

Unicorns skim lightly over the ground, so finding their trail is almost impossible

Unicorns on Battlegrounds?

Surely not!

While Julius Caesar merely reported news of a unicorn in Bavaria, Alexander the Great claimed to have ridden one into battle!

I would not go so far as to call the Conqueror of the Known World a liar, perhaps Alexander was just confused, for unicorns have a deep distaste for battles and would never be involved in a military campaign. Besides, Alexander had one of the greatest horses of history, the magnificent and mean-natured War Horse, Bucephalos who was far too bad-tempered to put up with a unicorn.

It's more likely that the Macedonian General struck up a brief friendship with Pegasus the Winged Horse. As you well know, the winged steed is no unicorn.

 Ghengis Khan, vanquished by a Unicorn?
Ghengis Khan, vanquished by a Unicorn?

The Unicorn who saved India

A Meeting with Genghis Khan

The Mongolian Warrior-Emperor, Genghis Khan, conquered much of Asia to build a great empire, but the intervention of a Unicorn made him abruptly turn back from invading India.

As Genghis was lining up his horsemen into their battle units for an easy victory, a unicorn appeared, cantered up to the Khan and knelt before him.

Genghis was astonished. Can you blame him? There's no record of any conversation but, as you are aware, unicorns are telepathic and we will never know what communication passed between these two.

The upshot was, Genghis turned his army away. One of the most famed and fearless warriors in history had been tamed by a Unicorn.

Plush Unicorn Castle with Animals - Five (5) Stuffed Animal Unicorns in Play Carrying Castle Case - White
Plush Unicorn Castle with Animals - Five (5) Stuffed Animal Unicorns in Play Carrying Castle Case - White

A soft plush castle complete with five little unicorn plushies. A winner with the littles

Aurora Unicorn Fancy Pals Purse with 8" Unicorn
Aurora Unicorn Fancy Pals Purse with 8" Unicorn

Is your little one of the age of wanting to carry things around? This perfect little plush unicorn is just right!


Never lose faith in a unicorn or your future will be bleak

Protect the Unicorn

Never tell!

The sighting of a unicorn is a magical and marvelous event.

If you are resting by clear running water in a remote and unspoiled woodland dell and, by wondrous chance, you see a passing unicorn, do not exclaim and jump up. And don't run up to touch him! Just stay silent, still and calm, allowing the unicorn to gracefully acknowledge your presence.

Remember that the unicorn is an aloof creature, solitary in his ways, and rarely allows any of us a sighting.

Respect his privacy. Never ever tell anybody else of his whereabouts.

(It's alright to tell me, I can keep a secret)

The Unicorn will Return when Goodness Returns

Keep on the lookout for unicorns. To see one is a sign of good times, which is why such sightings have dwindled the last few years. But the Unicorn will appear again - when goodness returns to the earth.

Do you believe in Unicorns?

You're more than welcome to state your opinion. You don't have to be a mythological creature.

Does the unicorn exist?

Anyone can leave a comment, you don't have to be a magical creature (or a fair maiden) to post yours

© 2008 Susanna Duffy

Leave a Note for the Unicorn Seekers. Are they on a pointless quest?

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    • profile image

      Leah Burns 

      4 weeks ago

      Another truth about Unicorns is that they represent the Feminine side of Christ. I am a direct descendant of Christ and Sophia. Also descended from King Lyre of Ireland 1st century ad.

      The Lion and Unicorn represents the balance of male and female.

      My cases are in court as The True Bluebloods reclaim our Sovereign Rights

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      For everybody who wants to see a unicorn, this is the place to go: ;)

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      4 years ago from Canada

      Found you in my related hubs so came to take a peek at your unicorn article because I know how excellent your historical work is. Yep, you did not disappoint me. You are the queen of information on myths and legends.

    • SusannaDuffy profile imageAUTHOR

      Susanna Duffy 

      5 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Unicorns can read. Who knows how many of them are reading these comments now? So don't mock these wondrous beasts or you will never, ever, ever see one in your whole life

    • mariacarbonara profile image


      6 years ago

      If I ever see a unicorn im gonna scream!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      no they are not on a pointless quest. they really do exsist!

    • lclchors profile image


      7 years ago

      I do believe above you write the K'i-Lin has the hooves of a horse. Every photo I found it has a cloved or two toe hoof like a cow or goat.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I believe in unicorns

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      This is a gorgeous lens - Love it - makes me want to believe in the magic of unicorns again!

    • profile image

      Nimsrules LM 

      7 years ago

      I've become a fan of your "The secret life..." series.

    • kathysart profile image


      7 years ago

      Thank you for spreading such glorious magic. Angel blessed.

    • jadehorseshoe profile image


      7 years ago

      Seek and You Just May Find. ... Nifty Lens.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Times have evolved in such a way that we have lost wonderful legacies like the Unicorn and the Dragon! A hundred years down the line, lions and tigers would be mythical creatures! :(

    • jptanabe profile image

      Jennifer P Tanabe 

      8 years ago from Red Hook, NY

      Love this lens about unicorns - how come I didn't find it before! Blessed.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Beautiful lens! I have loved unicorns all my life.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I have never actually seen a unicorn, even in my imaginary journeys. I believe they are very shy. But I have hope that one will grace me with it's presence soon.

      Lovely lens on a lovely topic.

    • dahlia369 profile image


      10 years ago

      Unicorns are beautiful and magical. You chose really nice images, thank you !

    • WhitU4ever profile image


      10 years ago

      Wonderful lens... unicorns are lovely to think about. I noticed you briefly featured Beucephalus, which got my attention as the story of Beucephalus is told at the beginning of the 1979 movie, The Black Stallion (one of my faves), starring Kelly Reno, Mickey Rooney, and Teri Garr.

    • aquariann profile image


      10 years ago

      I absolutely adore this 5-star lens! Such fascinating content that I didn't even know. Gorgeous art, too. I've lensrolled it to my The Last Unicorn lens.

    • ArtByLinda profile image

      Linda Hoxie 

      10 years ago from Idaho

      I love that picture of the european unicorn, just gorgeous. Beautiful lens too!


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