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Did you know the Unicorn is the National Animal of Scotland?

Most people consider the Unicorn to be a mythical creature which looks like a magnificent horse with a horn protruding from its forehead. However the Unicorn is a mythological creature which has been tied to Scotland as a national symbol for centuries and is depicted on the coat of arms of both Scotland and England.

The Unicorn dates back to ancient civilizations including Babylon and Indus as well as Persia, India, Greece and Egypt.

It was said to have magical qualities and was considered the symbol of purity, innocence, chivalry, pride and boldness in Scotland’s Celtic mythology. There are also tales that Unicorn horns could purify poisoned water and had healing powers.

There are some historical accounts of sightings of creatures with one horn which may have been the unicorn. The Bible refers to a creature called a re’em which may have been a Unicorn. It may be imagined though that some of these “sightings” were actually distant views of animals such as the rhinoceros?

During the reign of King William 1 the unicorn was used on the Scottish Royal coat of Arms. Coins depicting the Unicorn were introduced during the reign of King James 111. Later permissions were granted to some members of nobility to use the Unicorn on their personal coat of arms.

When King James V1 inherited the English and Irish thrones, the Royal Arms of England was merged with the Scottish Royal Coat of Arms and Ireland was also added. The Royal coat of Arms included both the Scottish Unicorn and the English Lion side by side.

The unicorn is often depicted wrapped in chains symbolizing the control of Scottish Kings in controlling this untamable powerful creature. Surprisingly the Lion and the Unicorn have a legendary status as enemies.

The Unicorn Tapestries depict a group of noblemen and hunters in pursuit of a unicorn and they are displayed in the New York Museum of Art and Stirling Castel. The tapestry is full of religious symbolism and demonstrates how important the Unicorn was in different cultures around the world.

In Scotland, the unicorn is found in many different types of locations including the gatepost of Holyroodhouse, standing outside of St Margaret’s Chapel at Edinburgh Castle,  carved in stone at St Andrews University and used as a figurehead for the HM Frigate Unicorn in Dundee.

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