The single horned magical beast is not only a European myth, mind you; China and Japan both have their own versions of unicorns, the qilin and kirin respectively. The qilin was said to appear before the birth or death of someone important. It wasn’t particularly horse-like, though, what with a curled horn, a scaly-green deer’s body and a lion’s head.
Some people believe the Bible contains references to unicorns, too. However, most scholars say this is actually a mistranslation of the Hebrew word re’em. These creatures are actually mentioned nine times in the sacred text, where they are symbols of strength – but the word most likely refers to an ancient variety of ox.
Strength furthermore continued to be one of the attributes assigned to unicorns into the Middle Ages. For instance, an Alexandrian merchant and traveler from the 6th century named Cosmas Indicopleustes passed on Ethiopian accounts of the unicorn as being a “ferocious beast,” with its power originating in its horn.