Millions of children all over the world have grown up with tales of unicorns, their young imaginations fed by the depictions of pretty creatures in movies like Legend and the Harry Potter series – not to mention the My Little Pony franchise. However, the real animals behind the unicorn myths are more likely to give kids nightmares than sweet dreams.
Stories about unicorns were around a long time before Hasbro churned out its first rainbow-colored plastic toy, of course. The fantastical creatures are actually associated with Greek myths; and yet to the ancient Greeks, they were not considered mythical, at all, but rather real live animals from India.
These early unicorns were not the graceful creatures we think of today, either. Greek historian Ctesias in fact gave us the first account in the 5th century B.C., portraying them as wild asses with long horns. We then hear of them from Pliny the Elder, who was writing in the 1st century A.D.; Pliny describes them as having “the head of the stag, the feet of the elephant and the tail of the boar, while the rest of the body is like that of the horse.”