Maybe My Little Pony and Lisa Frank were onto something all along, because it turns out unicorns were real. They just don't quite look how you thought. The recent discovery of a prehistoric species of rhinoceros could've started unicorn mythology, but human imagination helped turn the creature into a magical horse.
Stories of real unicorns go back to the early ages and they have since become a beloved fantasy creature in many cultures. Seen as cutesy, romantic, and the best friend of little girls everywhere, the unicorns have evolved from a symbol of purity during the Middle Ages to a magical being used to sell products to ethereal people. The Starbucks secret menu features a pink and purple Unicorn Frappuccino that has the ability to change colors. Unicorns also helped inspire the shimmering rainbow hair coloring many celebrities wear.
Real-life unicorns actually existed, and here's a look at how their image went from hairy rhinoceros cousins to a majestic creature galloping amid rainbows.
Our Image Of Unicorns Evolved From A Creature Allegedly Seen In IndiaPhoto: Metropolitan Museum of Art/Gift of John D. Rockefeller Jr., 1937 / Wikimedia Commons / CC0 1.0
The first known mention of unicorns in history appeared to humans in India. Each sighting seemed to mention the same details, such as four legs with hooves, long manes, white hair or fur, and of course a single horn on its head.
When the Bible was being translated into Greek, the word for "unicorn" was allegedly a mistranslation of the Hebrew word for "wild ox" which also may have played a part in the legend.
Thanks to writers and artists with vivid imaginations taking all the stories from around the world into account, the image of a graceful horse emerged. The popularity of unicorns is most likely due to this idealized image since it's a lot more glamorous than a hairy rhino-mammoth.
According To Legend, Unicorns Had Super Powers And Were Attracted To VirginsPhoto: Unknown, Strassburg / Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
Although legends claim unicorns are impossible for humans to tame, they are also one of the only mythological beasts that don't want to hurt us. This fact has earned unicorns respect and admiration, as well as a laundry list of other idealized traits including silvery hair, long manes with magical properties, and an all-powerful horn.
Unicorns also became a symbol of purity and were associated with virgins. Even Leonardo da Vinci bought into the unicorn myth and created at least one drawing that featured a unicorn, claiming virgins were the perfect bait to use when hunting them.
Unicorns Have Been Popular Since Long Ago, Not Only To Little GirlsPhoto: Domenichino / Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
Unlike other mythical horse creatures such as centaurs and Pegasus, unicorns are not part of Greek mythology. However, Greek literature points to a single-horned magical creature that lived in India and could be one basis for the legend of the unicorn.
It's also possible ancient people mistook the two-dimensional cave drawings that pictured goats and bulls as creatures that only possessed one horn.
During the Renaissance, humanity became obsessed with all things romantic and embraced the idea of the unicorn. The tusks of real-life narwhals were often sold as unicorn horns during the Middle Ages, and gullible buyers purchased them believing they had magical qualities.
Stories Of Unicorns Come From All Over The WorldPhoto: Watchduck (a.k.a. Tilman Piesk) / Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
While the first sighting of a unicorn is believed to have happened in India, there are accounts of single-horned creatures from all over the world. An Arabic traveler mentioned a creature with the body of a mule, the head of a camel, and a single round horn protruding from its head.
Chinese literature also includes stories about a single-horned animal with the body of a deer.
During the Middle Ages, unicorns became associated with the Bible and appeared in lots of artwork throughout Europe. Although unicorns can be found in the folk tales and mythology of many countries, in the majority of cases, it is a peaceful creature and has come to symbolize love, innocence, and purity all over the world.