A Unicorn Horn Twenty Inches Long
This unicorn testimony, about the acquisition of a twenty-inch unicorn horn by Major Latter, in the mountainous regions of central Asia, is extracted from but a small portion of the comprehensive evidence for the existence of unicorns presented in Larry Brian Radka's Historical Evidence For Unicorns. He extracted this particular piece of rare history from a long treatise on the Unicorn found in an 1832 edition of Calmet's Dictionary of the Holy Bible. It reads as follows:
The Quarterly Review for Oct. 1820, (vol. xxiv. 120.) in a notice of Frazer's tour through the Himalayan mountains, states: “We have no doubt that a little time will bring to light many objects of natural history peculiar to the elevated regions of central Asia, and hitherto unknown in the animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms, particularly in the two former. This is an opinion which we have long entertained; but we are led to the expression of it on the present occasion, by having been favored with the perusal of a most interesting communication from major Latter, commanding in the rajah of Sikkim's territories, in the hilly country east of Nepal, addressed to adjutant-general Nicol, and transmitted by him to the marquis of Hastings. This important paper explicitly states that the unicorn, so long considered as a fabulous animal, actually exists at this moment in the interior of Thibet, where it is well known to the inhabitants. ‘This’—we copy from the major's letter—‘is a very curious fact, and it may be necessary to mention how the circumstance became known to me. In a Thibetian transcript, containing the names of different animals, which I procured the other day from the hills, the unicorn is classed under the head of those whose hoofs are divided: it is called the one-horned tso'po: Upon inquiring what kind of animal it was, to our astonishment, the person who brought the manuscript described exactly the unicorn of the ancients; saying, that it was a native of the interior of Thibet, about the size of a tattoo, [a horse from twelve to thirteen hands high,] fierce and extremely wild; seldom, if ever, caught alive, but frequently shot; and that the flesh was used for food.’—‘The person,’ major Latter adds, ‘who gave me this information, has repeatedly seen these animals, and eaten the flesh of them. They go together in herds, like our wild buffaloes, and are very frequently to be met with on the borders of the great desert, about a month's journey from Lassa, in that part of the country inhabited by the wandering Tartars.’
From Edward Topsell's 1607 edition of the History of Four-Footed Beasts
“This communication is accompanied by a drawing made by the messenger from recollection. It bears some resemblance to a horse, but has cloven hoofs, a long curved horn growing out of the forehead, and a boar-shaped tail, like that of the fera monoceros described by Pliny. From its herding together, as the unicorn of the Scriptures is said to do, as well as from the rest of the description, it is evident that it cannot be the rhinoceros, which is a solitary animal ; besides major Latter states that, in the Thibetian manuscript, the rhinoceros is described under the name of servo, and classed with the elephant; ‘neither,’ says he, ‘is it the wild horse, (well known in Thibet,) for that has also a different name, and is classed in the manuscript with the animals which have the hoofs undivided.’—‘I have written,’ he subjoins, ‘to the Sachia Lama, requesting him to procure me a perfect skin of the animal, with the head, horn and hoofs; but it will be a long time before I can get it down, for they are not to be met with nearer than a month's journey from Lasso.’”
As a sequel to this account, we find the following paragraph in the Calcutta Government Gazette, August, 1821: “Major Latter has obtained the horn of a young unicorn from the Sachia Lama, which is now before us. It is twenty inches in length; at the root it is four inches and a half in circumference, and tapers to a point; it is black, rather flat at the sides, and has fifteen rings, but they are only prominent on one side; it is nearly straight. Major Latter expects to obtain the head of the animal, with the hoofs and the skin, very shortly, which will afford positive proof of the form and character of the tso'po, or Thibet unicorn.”
Such are the latest accounts which have reached us of this animal; and although their credibility cannot well be contested, and the coincidence of the description with that of Pliny is so striking, yet it is singular that in the lapse of more than ten years, (1832,) nothing further should have been heard on a subject so interesting.
And now almost two hundred years have passed with little more notice of the twenty-inch unicorn horn.
This page was last modified on Wednesday, July 15, 2015