unicorn (yōˈnĭkôrn) [key], fabulous equine beast with a long horn jutting from the middle of its forehead. Once thought to be native to India, the unicorn was reportedly seen throughout the world. It was often considered as a composite creature, having the features of various animals. The unicorn is depicted as a beautiful animal, usually pure white in color. Said to only be captured by a virgin, it has been used to represent virginity, but also has religious significance in connection with the Virgin Mary and Jesus. The hunting of the unicorn was a subject in tapestries of the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

See C. Lavers, The Natural History of Unicorns (2009).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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