Unicorn: The National Animal Of Scotland

By Antonia Čirjak on July 17 2020 in World Facts

Gate of Queen's Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh.
Gate of Queen's Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh.
  • Scotland uses a fictional animal as its national symbol - a unicorn. Not only is it fictional, but it is also an animal that symbolizes purity and grace, which makes it even more special.
  • The first time a unicorn was used by Scottish royalty on their armor was in the 12th century. This was when William I used a picture of a unicorn on his royal coat of arms.
  • The way the unicorn is depicted as the national animal often has him wrapped around in golden chains. These chains go around the neck of the unicorn and wrap themselves around their body.

Many countries have gorgeous, iconic national animals. The United States of America has the bald eagle as its national animal, and no one can deny that it is a gorgeous, majestic creature. However, we’d argue that Scotland has everyone else beat in this department. Why? Well, the national animal of Scotland is a unicorn.

That’s right; the country uses a fictional animal as its national symbol. Not only is it fictional, but it is also an animal that symbolizes purity and grace, which makes it even more special. The white horned horse has become the creature that is featured across multiple myths, and we have trouble imagining a cooler national animal for a country. To learn more about the reasons why this is the national animal of Scotland, read on!

Mythological Creatures Of Beauty

Unicorns were often mentioned in Celtic mythology and were presented as symbols of innocence and purity, but also power and masculinity. This duality made them especially interesting for everyone that was writing these legends. Multiple tales spoke of chivalry that featured unicorns as prominent characters, which could be the reason why they were picked as the national animal of Scotland.

Edinburgh coat of arms, Scotland (UK)
Edinburgh coat of arms, Scotland (UK).

Scotland is a country known for its love for legends and myths, and they are deeply interwoven into its history, so it makes sense that a creature like a unicorn would become its national animal. Centuries of tales and legends have created a bond between the mythical creature and the country of Scotland, and the logical conclusion to this relationship would be for the unicorn to become one of the symbols of Scotland. The animal may be mythological, but it represents virtues and ideals that are a perfect fit for the country.

The Symbol Of Pride And Strength 

The Scottish people are extremely proud, just like the unicorn, and they have fought to remain unconquered for centuries. The first time a unicorn was used by Scottish royalty on their armor was in the 12th century. This was when William I used a picture of a unicorn on his royal coat of arms. King James III continued the tradition in the 15th century, going so far as to put unicorns on gold coins used as currency in the country.

In the 17th century, Scotland unified with England under the rule of James VI, and until then, the Scottish soldiers used a symbol that had two unicorns on their shields. Once the unification was in place, one of the unicorns was replaced by a lion, which symbolized the true unity of the two countries.

The way the unicorn is depicted as the national animal often has him wrapped around in golden chains. These chains go around the neck of the unicorn and wrap themselves around their body. It is unknown why the unicorn is depicted in this manner, but there is a good explanation.

Since unicorns are generally considered extremely powerful animals, the chains could possibly symbolize the power that the Scottish kings possess, the power that could tame even a wild unicorn. There are many places where you can see unicorn heraldry even today, including the King’s Fountain at Linlithgow Palace, Delgatie Castle, the National War Museum, and many more.

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