Unleashing the Myth: Why Scotland Chose a Mythical Beast as Its National Animal

You might be surprised to learn that the national animal of Scotland is not a creature you’ll find roaming the Highlands. Instead, it’s a mythical beast known for its purity, power, and elusiveness: the unicorn. Yes, you read that right. The unicorn, a creature of legend, is the national animal of Scotland. But why is this?

Unleashing the Myth: Why Scotland Chose a Mythical Beast as Its National Animal
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The Unicorn in Scottish History

Unicorns have been linked to Scotland for centuries. In Celtic mythology, the unicorn was a symbol of purity and innocence, as well as masculinity and power. Tales of dominance and chivalry associated with the unicorn may be why it was chosen as Scotland’s national animal. The ideals the unicorn represents – strength, freedom, and power – are what make it a perfect fit as the national animal for Scotland.

The unicorn was first used on the Scottish royal coat of arms by William I in the 12th century. In the 15th century, during the reign of King James III, gold coins even appeared with the unicorn on them. When Scotland and England unified under the reign of James VI of Scotland in 1603, the Scottish Royal Arms had two unicorns supporting a shield. When James VI became James I of England and Ireland, he replaced the unicorn on the left of the shield with the national animal of England, the lion, to show that the countries were indeed united.

The Chained Unicorn

The unicorn representing Scotland in the coat of arms is always depicted bounded by a golden chain, which is often seen passing around its neck and wrapping all around its body. The unicorn was believed to be the strongest of all animals – wild and untamed, and that it could only be humbled by a virgin maiden. It is possible that the entrapment symbolises the power of the Scottish kings – they were strong enough to tame even a unicorn.

A Fun Fact

Did you know that Scotland has a National Unicorn Day? It’s on the 9th of April every year!

So, while it might seem a bit crazy to have a mythical creature as a national animal, when you delve into the history and symbolism of the unicorn, it starts to make a lot more sense. The unicorn is a symbol of strength, freedom, and power, qualities that Scotland is proud to represent.



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